Review By Dustin Griffin From August 2014 Vandala Magazine READ MORE ARTICLES
Admittedly, and obviously, this month’s cover choice is a bit of a cheat, as Smash actually came out 20 years ago. But because the cover has been slightly redesigned in the new, flashy anniversary package out this month, I’m running with it.
It’s easy to take it for granted now, but Smash literally helped change punk music forever. For better and for worse. And though it came out four months after Green Day’s Dookie, which had an even bigger seismic impact on the industry and the shape of punk to come, Smash made a splash all on its own that in different ways can still be felt today.
Although they’ve always gotten unfairly lumped in with the grunge crowd, Nirvana to me were always more of a punk band and Nevermind was the first true punk record to sell millions. By 1994 though, it was still a bit of a phenomenon for a punk rock band to be successful enough to quit their day jobs, much less reach a global audience. But Green Day and Offspring changed all that. What put the exclamation point on Offspring doing it was that, unlike Green Day or Nirvana, who were backed by major labels, Offspring were an indie band on an indie label. Epitaph had other heavy hitters at the time that could sell a relative boatload (Bad Religion, Pennywise, Rancid), but nothing compared to Smash’s numbers and it’s interesting to think of where the label would’ve have ended up, indeed if it would still be around, without it.
The cover of Smash is one of the great punk rock covers, and statements, of all time. Sure, Dookie’s busy satire is cool and entertaining, and Nevermind’s snide comment on commercialism and materialism is poignant and timeless. Smash, like Nevermind The Bullocks… before it, finds power and a middle finger in minimalism. The low budget, low definition image of an upper body x-ray xerox, with a ghostly overlay that looks like a giant baby is both striking and aggressive.
The cover of the album, a common theme that ran throughout the Smash era and, in different forms, extended to the band’s succeeding albums, is a representation of the dark and nihilistic thematic content found within the record’s songs: Death, greed, suicide, violence, addiction, and abuse. And while the premonition laced title of the record doesn’t seem to correlate directly with the image, it can also be applied to each of those six thematic avenues the band were exploring with the album.
The 20th anniversary of this game changing record see’s a number of exciting celebrations on behalf of the band. They are currently on a mouth wateringly exciting tour with fellow Epitaph alum Bad Religion, Pennywise and The Vandals, on which they will be playing Smash in its entirety at every show. They’re also releasing the record in a couple of different, beefed up vinyl deluxe editions with new remasters and assorted goodies found within.
Smash is one of punk rock’s great recordings, and not just because of the number of units it moved. And that distorted, ominous skeleton, along with the band’s name stamped/smudged across the top, one of its greatest covers.