So what's next down the pop-culture pipe? Beats me, but I will say this: Despite my growing interest in trip-hop, and my conviction that DJ Shadow's Endroducing ... is an album for the ages, I disagree with critics who contend that the music will revive a withering industry and pull kids back into the record stores. (That's about as likely as postrock diddlers such as Jessamine, FYxa, or Windy + Carl outselling Pink Floyd.) For better or worse, the masses like songs, not soundscapes -- they like words they can sing, melodies they can hum, and faces they can connect with the music they're hearing. Until trip-hop produces someone like that (Tricky is as close as it's come so far), it will remain the music of dancefloor dwellers and sofa-bound stoners looking for nod-out jams.
Of one thing, though, you can be certain: Punk rock will always be around, and the best of it will always be found on small independent labels that operate well beyond the confines of the mainstream -- even a mainstream that, until recently, was on friendly terms with abrasive rock and roll. The proof is in the self-titled debut album by the Crumbs, issued a few weeks back on the Berkeley-based Lookout label (home of the legendary Queers, the journeyman Mr. T Experience, and the former roost of Green Day).
Since the Fort Lauderdale quartet isn't exactly a household name, they don't have to worry about proclaiming or defending their credibility; you can hear it in the full-force power chords they've borrowed from the Ramones and in vocalist Raf Classic's frayed-throat snarl, a throwback to Mike Ness circa "Mommy's Little Monster." It's in the self-loathing, alcoholic melancholy of "Ain't No Stopping" and "Dead Boys Too," and the reckless fun in "It's Gonna Take All the Time I Got" and "The Deal Down There." Because of the album's crude production, and because the band is proud of their music's rough, ragged edges, the Crumbs don't stand a chance of reaching even a tenth of the Offspring's audience. Still, their brand of no-shit punk rock works the way the Offspring's simply doesn't, despite that band's feeble arguments to the contrary. But there isn't a pretentious moment anywhere on The Crumbs's thirteen cuts -- just pure conviction, purpose, and passion. And if that's not credibility, I don't know what is.
The Offspring perform Wednesday, February 26, at the Edge, 20 West Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-9333. Tickets for the all-ages show are $15 and doors open at 7:00 p.m. Opening acts include Strung Out and