Review Summary: This may be the punk purist's Album of the Year...
Keith Morris is a beast. Let's face it... this man is not going to die. In his tender and impressionable youth he helped form two bands that would forever shape the soundscape of punk rock and hardcore music, Black Flag
and Circle Jerks
, the latter of which he would remain with on and off until the mid-90s, forming the oddly named Midget Handjob during their first breakup in '89, and recording several songs on a tribute album of the former band dedicated to the West Memphis Three. And now, at the age of 55, well... things don't seem to have changed much.
Don't call it a "supergroup," or even worse, a "punk supergroup," but I guess that really is what it is. Consisting of the afore-mentioned Keith Morris, veteran punk rocker and preferred vocalist of Black Flag
by smelly bearded cork-sniffers everywhere, Dimitri Coats from Burning Brides
, Steven Shane McDonald from Redd Kross
, and Mario Rubalcaba from underground sweethearts Hot Cross
, and Rocket From the Crypt
, it most certainly sounds like a strange and beautiful recipe. And... well, I don't know if "beautiful" is quite the word, but it definitely is awesome. Fast, frustrated, and to the point, this album, neatly packaged in the form of a 4x7" boxset with cover art by Raymond Pettibon (whose style you might recognize from Black Flag album covers) lasts... roughly 15 minutes, with many songs being less than a minute long.
Short, concentrated, and furious bursts of energy pretty well sums up the spirit of every single song on this record, and as you could guess, it doesn't let up for a second. Keith Morris sounds unmarred by the trials of time, if anything picking up the pace a bit from last time we heard him taking up the creative helms. As far as the musicianship, interestingly, fancy things like "nuance" are tossed out the door in spite of the obvious technical talent of the musicians involved in favor of a straight-forward, no-holds-barred, old school hardcore punk rock style. Power chords and... well, power chords. And, oh yeah, straight basslines and simple drumming patterns. Sound boring? Curiously, it's not. Especially if you're a punk rock purist in the first place, but even as someone who's long-past grown bored of punk conventions, OFF! still manage to pull off staying interesting throughout, though that may be on account of the extreme brevity of it all. Even the subject matter is quite familiar, ranging from alienation and frustration on the tracks "I Don't Know" and "Black Thoughts," bro anthems ("Jeffrey Lee Pierce"), and shout-outs to their fans with the snarky "*** People," and their not-so-fans with "Full Of ***." Personal favorites and stand-outs in my opinion are "Crawl," "Poison City," and "Full of ***," though "Black Thoughts" is an undeniably great way to kick things off.
I don't know... this band truly makes me think that perhaps with all of the innovations and progression within the genre, punk has forgotten what made it so relatable in the first place and has become an albatross around the neck of the underground music scene. Maybe up-and-coming punk bands could take a lesson or two here...