OFF! – [LP]

Saturday, 22 September 2012

After OFF! shattered every expectation that anyone could have had of them with their First Four EPs release, the band found itself in the predicament of trying to figure out what to do next. Doing the exact same thing and pointing fingers at the punks in the crowd as they had with their first release would have just gotten them on the fast track to becoming just another nostalgia act, so something had to change – but the question was, “What could change without leading the band to appearing sa though they were just a parody of their own success?” It was a hard question certainly and the band must have taken it as a personal challenge. Accepting that challenge led to an epiphany: why not make the music personal? The decades of experience logged by OFF!'s members had to be good for something, so the memories made back then were recast as current day songs with present-tense urgency and included alongside a few other songs that the band had already written.

The results of that new view are remarkable. The subjects of these sixteen songs are open enough that listeners will be able to take them home and absorb for themselves, or they can stand back and assume that singer Keith Morris is berating a particular individual that HE knows – but the truth is never certain. Some listeners will scoff and say that such styling is deliberate vaguery, and it may be – but it still makes for a great listen.

OFF!'s first side picks up precisely where the band's fourth EP left off when it opens with “Wiped Out.” Once again, there is no build-up to get up to speed because the band is already in fifth gear with Morris howling, “In my disconnect/ When I shut down/ As this city's weight buries me/ I wanna knock it down.” It feels like a perfect continuation; it feels like, after OFF! finished recording “Peace In Hermosa” to close out the band's fourth EP and the sessions wrapped, Keith Morris grabbed a pen and wrote these words as he walked home from the studio – it has the same infectious rage and intensity. Immediately after that, the album's focus shifts for “I Got News For You.” There, with lines like “You think you're the king of the scene/ That you created?/ I got news for you/ Did you expect us/ To worship at your feet?/ I got news for you” and less veiled discussions of friends who have been fucked over, it's hard not to assume that the song might be an indictment of Brett Gurewitz (who allegedly tried to get OFF! signed to Epitaph before they signed with Vice), but there's no way to be sure; it just seems plausible as Morris spits and snarls and Dimitri Coats slashes at his guitar.

That trend of OFF! coming so close that a song might be a true story continues through “Wrong,” “Borrow And Bomb” and “Man From Nowhere” on the first side of this LP, and listeners won't be able to stop themselves from wondering how many of the songs are indeed autobiographical – but only a fraction of their attention will be held by that because the songs are so infectious that it's hard to care it they're true.

Even with that said though, the same question comes up on the flipside of the record. The B-side of this LP feels completely different from the A-side; there is a broader spectrum of sensations and, because of that, it really does feel like OFF! is advancing from a stylistic and structural standpoint. There is an almost fanciful element expressed in “Jet Black Girls” (where Morris – who has now been sober for years – sings about beer, speed, cocaine and nights at The Masque) as well as a sense of genuine societal disgust in “Vaporized” and a nightmarish tale of overdosing in “503” which couldn't be ignored even if they weren't so captivating.

With all of the new approaches to songwriting expressed on this self-titled LP, those listeners who were won by the candor and urgency of the First Four EPs will get their minds blown by this album. The First Four EPs were all about establishing a name,  but this album is where OFF! shows off just how much they can do with an elementary set of tools and how talented they are.


Further Reading:

Ground Control Magazine – OFF! – [CD Review]


OFF!'s self-titled album is out now on both 12'' vinyl and CD formats, as well as mp3. Buy it here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.