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Since emerging just over two years ago, OFF!, a phlegmatic quartet from Los Angeles, have routinely been described as a "hardcore supergroup". Aside from the fact that no purported supergroup ever wished to be labeled as such, it isn’t strictly accurate regarding its members’ CVs.
Guitarist Dimitri Coats spent most of the 00s supporting arena-sized bands with his garage/hard rock combo Burning Brides; drummer Mario Rubalcaba has an extensive list of former projects, Rocket from the Crypt being perhaps the best known.
However, it’s the legacy of OFF! vocalist Keith Morris that most obviously informs the sound of their debut album proper, which – like 2011’s First Four EPs collection, a studio album in all but name – barrels through 16 songs averaging roughly a minute apiece. Approaching 60-years-old and an arresting figure with his gym rope-thick dreadlocks, Morris is one of the founding fathers of American hardcore punk: initially the frontman of Black Flag, he left after one EP to form the comparably quick and unruly Circle Jerks.
Steven McDonald, like Morris a prime mover in early-80s Cali punk with his band Red Cross (later Redd Kross), completes the line-up on bass; as with his three bandmates, OFF! finds him rocking out with more brevity and snot than any time since his youth.
Given that all involved are perfectly capable of rockist indulgence should they so desire, it’s remarkable how purist a reenactment of three-decades-old LA HC this record is. There are virtually no choruses as such, just one- or two-line sloganeering refrains; guitar solos do happen, but rarely for more than, say, 10 seconds. The pace is relentless, but never absurdly fast – OFF! hail an era where thrash metal was yet to be invented.
Moreover, a grounding in hardcore history will add spice to Morris’ lyrics. Songs like Jet Black Girls and Feelings Are Meant to Be Hurt namecheck faces and places from his musical upbringing, while I Got News for You (the album’s high point) and Elimination swing an axe at those who would rewrite or commodify the culture that the OFF! vocalist helped to create.
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Top Customer Reviews
16 songs, 16 minutes - that's punk rock for you!
Off! is the "punk rock supergroup" fronted by ex-Black Flag/Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris. They write short, fast and occasionally catchy hardcore punk.
So, is it as good as the First Four EPs collection?
Not really. But that would be a huge ask! The songs aren't as immediate or catchy. But while there's no Panic Attack, it's a pretty good follow-up. It's about the same length too!
Again, it's the vocals which are most prominent in the mix - they provide the anger, the passion and the melody.
The music is loose lo-fi, fast and melodic punk and very well played - if you're after heavy or metallic then you've come to the wrong place.
But, THAT voice is awesome, especially on Borrow And Bomb, and Toxic Box - for me, the former is the album's standout track.
To be honest, 16 minutes does the band justice - there is very little variety on show here, and 60 minutes of this on CD would probably be too much. As it is, it does pretty much what you expect, gets you up and jumping around for a quarter of an hour.
I'd probably go for three and a half stars if I could.
If you bought The First Four EPs I recommend this - if not, then I'd buy that first.
If you've heard their first CD collection, First Four EPs, then you should have a very good idea of what the band sound like. Alternatively, if you are familiar and appreciative with Morris' classic projects, then this shouldn't disappoint. Both OFF! CDs are similar in style - they have the same amount of songs and about the same running time. However, there are subtle differences. The first collection of songs were more raging. It's not that Morris sounds any less possessed on this second effort but the anger is a touch reigned in. At the same time, to its benefit, the eponymous second album has songs with a slightly more complex style, structurally speaking. And we're talking very slight - how much space is there for creative flair in 60 seconds? - however, there are a few more guitar licks and more riffs of note. Talking about stand out tracks is a bit redundant on something that can be happily sat through in quarter-of-an-hour but 'King Kong Brigade', 'Borrow and Bombed', 'Toxic Box' and 'Cracked' are all great moments.
As I complained in my review of Dead Ending on here, there is not really a lot of great, classic-sounding hardcore at the moment. There are still some bands worth checking out but the stylings of OFF! are so uncommon these days that it sounds both perfectly fresh as well as believably being a lost classic.
I think that suffices.Read more ›