Off With Their Heads – [Album]

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Remember about sixteen years ago when 'punk rock' was punk rock, 'hardcore' was simply hardcore and the thousand-and-one hybrids or minor alterations made to those sounds had yet to germinate into autonomous sub-genres? It's not easy to recall anymore – everything from pop-mosh to emo to screamo to post-industrial hard-mosh-pop-core (somebody has to be qualifying their music that way) and “power slop, but with an edge” and dozens more obscure the basics – but Off With Their Heads and their Epitaph debut, In Desolation, stand as reminders that the K.I.S.S. Principle still works and adhering to it can pay off. There are no frills attached to this album and so nothing to diffuse the dozen songs that comprise it; In Desolation is just punk rock – and it's really fuckin' good.

Off With Their Heads leaves no time for looking back as the band kicks the door open with “Drive” and just starts running. While guitarist Zack Gontard sets up rock solid walls of sound, bassist Robbie Swartwood ducks and weaves his way around them with some fine and propulsive lines (think Matt Freeman circa …And Out Come The Wolves, or Mike Dirnt around the time of Dookie) and drummer Justin Francis keeps the whole thing grounded, singer Ryan Young belts – part 'shout' and part 'sing' – harder than most punk singers have dared in years and receives a response unlike anything a punk band signed to Epitaph has received in years; those within earshot might sing and they might mosh, but it's guaranteed that they'll feel it right in their guts. It's an almost primal sensation and one that fans of punk rock will find they missed because they just haven't felt it in a long time.

In Desolation isn't just a one-shot deal either – there is no filler, EACH song is that infectious. If picking individual 'must-hear' tracks is required to represent the quality of an album, here's a few – on “Their Own Medicine,” “ZZYZX,” “All I Can Do” and “I Just Want You To Know,” Off With Their Heads demolishes all perspective on the state of punk rock as they smash all the “subgeneric” paradigms and reclaim punk for the those that believe – not those who believe they can turn a profit – and knocks the heads off of listeners with a sound that is equal parts adrenaline and a belief that this music can still make a difference on a street level; there are no fancy gimmicks or cliches masquerading as 'genuine expression,' they ARE genuine because themes like “that girl,” the struggle to survive or make a difference in anything at all – not a cause, just in LIFE – are imminently relatable to everyone and presented here as the only things really worth the time to talk about. That attention to basic necessity is infectious here, and it's unlikely that there is anyone listening who can't get behind that.

In the end, listeners will completely understand when Off With Their Heads begins to slow down a bit as “My Episodes” and “Clear The Air” wind the album to a close, the exertion that the band had sustained for the previous ten tracks was enormous. In those last two songs too, listeners get a minute to absorb what they've just heard, which was an honest and genuine punk record made by a band made by a band that had nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting themselves out there for people to hear. This album can make a difference, if only because it could revive the notion that punk rock doesn't need a bunch of bells and whistles to connect with audiences. In that way, In Desolation is an incredible success; it proves that the basics aren't antique and they still carry a fantastic amount of power.



Off With Their Heads – “ZZYZX” – In Desolation

Further Reading:
Ground Control feature – "Off With Their Heads Make The Label Leap" – 2/21/10


In Desolation
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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