May 3, 2012

Album Review: OFF!'s OFF!

Unlike the shape of punk to come over the past half decade, the arrival of OFF! back in 2009 has been a not-so-gentle reminder of how far the genre has come since its raw, brittle sound paved the way for these artsier perversions. The SoCal punk-lifer supergroup -- which features former Black Flag / Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris, Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides, Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald and Rocket From The Crypt / Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba -- aren't bothering to reinvent the genre, as evidenced on 2010's epically destructive First Four EPs. Instead, OFF! wears its members' past work as influences with their roots planted firmly in the '80s when bucking artsiness was fashionable and getting fancy simply meant fucking things up in the pit. On their self-titled debut, OFF! continue to plow through a short-stacked set of gut-wrenching four-chord riffs that result in another run of pure, unadulterated punk rock.

Keith Morris maintains a straight and to-the-point approach when it comes to putting his thoughts into words, making it unsurprising that his quick dissertations are just enough to cover 16 minutes of ground over the course of OFF!'s 16 tracks. Each blister with a youthfully rebellious -- albeit angry and menacing -- perspective for a guy that's pushing 56, and alongside the rest of the crew, there's really no absence of urgency or aggression throughout this listen that would lead you to believe they can't hold their own regardless of the age difference between them and the next generation of punk rockers. Where as the First Four EPs was entrenched inside a single-take vigor that later made their live shows pumped with adrenaline, OFF!'s greatest fete is that it consciously captures this vibe with slightly more premeditation ("Wiped Out," "King Kong Brigade," "Man from Nowhere.") Decades invested within the punk rock community also mean that Morris has a few stories to share from his travels (The Greg Ginn-slighting "Cracked") all while throwing his experience around ("I Got News for You.")

To make something out of OFF!'s godfather-like status within their world seems somewhat like a disservice to their material, as their self-titled debut -- while "classic"-sounding -- isn't looking to turn to nostalgia as a crutch so much as it is to simply show the world just exactly how it's done. OFF! aims straight for the heart of punk rock, and perhaps it's Keith Morris and company's lack of self-awareness and disregard of trend that make OFF! such a refreshing anomaly in today's modern punk landscape.

OFF!'s OFF! will be released May 8, 2012 on Vice Records.

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