OFF! – [7” single]

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Compared to the average working practices of most other bands in the last ten years, OFF! must have just run back into the studio following the first promotional tour they embarked upon in support of their First Four EPs release. Granted, a new seven-inch from the band isn't so shocking as it would have been to see another full-length offering, but the pair of songs presented on this single already imply growth and betray the fact that the band members are both getting comfortable with what they're doing and the reactions that their first release received.

Listeners won't be able to stop themselves from doing a double-take as “Compared To What” fires up and leads with a petulant “na na na” line from singer Keith Morris. Compared to the needs-first and stripped-to-the-bone presentation that the First Four EPs featured, these first few seconds of “Compared To What” and the changes they represent feel like a revelation; while the song still keeps to OFF!'s loud-fast-and-out ethics that shook listeners so violently before in songs like “Black Thoughts” and “Darkness,” there suddenly seems like there is more care and craft behind Morris' vocal (which sounds a little like Jello Biafra or Pil-era John Lydon, in the singer's spat, sardonic delivery of it) and will give everyone listening cause to pay that much more attention. As the song progresses, a second epiphany comes when guitarist Dmitri Coats slices the song open with a landspeed record-braking guitar solo! This kind of frill was unheard of anywhere on the First Four EPs, but that it cuts so deeply and cleanly here almost tastes like a guilty pleasure here. It's just awesome.

The flipside of the single keeps the power of the A-side intact, but expands on the social commentary which was first presented by OFF! in “I Don't Belong” from the band's first EP by making the anger and resentment in that song more personal and internal. Here, the anger in Keith Morris' vocals is still red hot, but the recurring “I'm the rotten apple in your family tree” line brings the direction of that anger into focus and gives it a specific target. Because of that, “Rotten Apple” seems both more poignant and more potent – listeners can almost imagine seeing Morris screaming at and wanting to spit in his father's face as he snarls lines like “I remember you and you remember me,” and “You're the guy who really killed my way of life” before simply seething “I caught on to all your little tricks/and I found out that money's the only difference between you and me.” Morris has been scathing in his remarks with OFF! before but, prior to this point, he hasn't been so obviously and personally confrontational with a single individual before; before this, it has always been faceless groups that have felt the singer's wrath. Here though, listeners will get chills as they absorb the one-on-one blows the singer dishes out and, because “Rotten Apple” feels so focused and personal, listeners will feel compelled to apologize to the singer for whatever he feels like they did – or at least beg forgiveness for the misunderstanding. In that, Morris and OFF! prove they're able to write about more than one subject which opens up an infinite number of possibilities for future releases. Here – between “Rotten Apple” and “Compared To What” – they've set new precedents for their music and how it can operate, as well as what it's able to say and who it's able to speak to (there are more than a few teenagers listening who would love to scream the lyric sheet of “Rotten Apple” at their fathers too). Not only that but, once again, OFF! has set these fantastic precedents in a spectacularly short period of time – only two minutes and fifty-eight seconds here. At the rate they're going, there's no telling what OFF! might be capable of.


Further Reading:

Ground Control Magazine – "It's Time To Go OFF!" – feature article
Ground Control MagazineFirst Four EPs – Box Set review
Ground Control MagazineFirst Four EPs – CD review


The First Four EPs CD is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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