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OFF! - OFF! (Cover Artwork)

OFF!

OFF!: OFF!OFF! (2012)
Vice Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
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Contributed by: JohnGentileJohnGentile
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OFF!'s self-titled LP is nastier, faster, shorter, darker and more complex than the The First Four EPs. Only a band like OFF! would become more agitated after the monumental success of its debut. While The First Four EPs perfected three chord hardcore punk slamming, the follow up presented a chal.
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OFF!'s self-titled LP is nastier, faster, shorter, darker and more complex than the The First Four EPs. Only a band like OFF! would become more agitated after the monumental success of its debut.

While The First Four EPs perfected three chord hardcore punk slamming, the follow up presented a challenge. In a way, The First Four EPs was almost too perfect. Were they to record 16 more songs in that vein, OFF!'s members would just be repeating what they had already done. But, were they to do something entirely different, they might lose that wonderful, undiluted rage that made them so unique and matchless. But, as vocalist Keith Morris told us directly last week, the band didn't worry abut any of that at all.

"I've never been someone who looks back and says, 'During this period, we were shooting heroin and shooting opium in the testicle and the drummer drank champagne and was strung out...' I don't pay attention to any of that stuff. Just get down and do it!"

The band's unwillingness to analyze itself resulted in what is probably the best of all possible follow ups. The band still bases its sound in high energy, jagged, three chord riff smashing with Morris screaming over the top. But, where the band threatened to jump the rails on First Four EPs, on OFF! it flies off the track and smashes into the bank across the street.

Guitarist Dimitri Coats' playing has become more unpredictable. Coats comes from a background of more complex hard rock, so its possible that he has grown tired of playing only three notes a song. Here, while Coates retains the early '80s hardcore attack, his skill allows him to shift and bend the simple three chords into formats with great depth. Instead of simply slashing out the notes, he pulls them out to their fullest extent, and bends the end so that there are tiny jagged hooks after each strum. Instead of the notes having a single tone, they bend, starting much more distorted and darker than when they began, even though each note is about 1/4 of a second long.

Song structure has developed similarly. While the songs of The First Four EPs navigated around the standard verse chorus verse structure, here the songs are cut down to maximum minimalist statements. "Wrong" doesn't so much have a structure as an evolution. "Wiped Out" and "Jet Black Girls" use feedback and distorted noise as much as music for expression.

But, just as Coats has evolved, so has Morris. While the minute frontman has been self referential in the past, he amplifies that aspect even more. On "Cracked" he attacks the ennui of either Greg Ginn, of Black Flag, his first band, or of the Circle Jerks collectively, his second band. "Feelings Were Meant to Be Hurt" finds him both praising and lamenting the formation of the first wave of West Coast hardcore. Fascinatingly, Morris says that Germs frontman Darby Crash saved his life on "Jet Black Girls."*

Like Coats' guitar, Morris' vocals have become less predicable. At times, such as on "Borrow and Bomb," he shrieks along with the snapping riffs, sounding as vitriolic and frustrated as ever. But on other tracks, like "Wrong," he rambles in an angry contemplation that is almost as much spoken word as singing. And of course, he's even more dark than before. On "King Kong Brigade" he exclaims "I want to staple your scalp to the steering wheel!"

The berserk explosions of the songs is evident by the running times. Songs are even shorter than before, with most tracks clocking in at under a minute. Where OFF! used to cut songs down to their absolute minimum, now the band cuts them beyond even that, leaving vicious fragments, that in their fractured manifestation, allow the band to leap beyond its only real previous criticism: that as good as the music sounds, it's been done before.

Well, the shattered songs here are manic tiny pieces that snap together, sort of, but not without shredding your ears, in a dangerous combination that is new and classic at the same time. This has not been done before and this is the very best way to get sliced up.

*I have to know the story behind this! He also says he had Coco Puffs with "Mr. Scratch." If that turns out to be Lee Scratch Perry, my mind will just explode.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Propagandhi - Failed StatesThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastPropagandhi - Supporting CasteOFF! - First Four EPs [box set]Dead To Me - Moscow Penny AnteThe Clash - London CallingDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegeOff With Their Heads - HomeDear Landlord - Dream HomesThe Flatliners - Cavalcade

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
RiotRiot81 (October 23, 2012)

So fucking good.

DesertBurst92 (June 5, 2012)

Definitely in my top 5 albums of 2012

Ravnos (May 10, 2012)

I've been listening to this pretty much non-stop for the past few days. I like it a lot. The First Four EP's was one of a few albums that was in pretty much constant rotation for me for the past year and this is more of a good thing. As far as whether or not this is better than that album, I'd say, not overall. The albums best songs are better than what they put out previously but not everything is as memorable. That said, I don' think danperrone is off-base here in thinking that the hype is largely due to pedigree. That I like this a lot doesn't detract from the fact that if these were a bunch of guys no one had heard of instead of being fronted by Keith Morris (plus members of Redd Kross, etc.), this wouldn't get the attention it does and certainly wouldn't get put out by the hipsters at Vice. It would still be a pretty solid collection of throwback punk songs, but I think there would be more people criticising it for not bringing anything new to the table instead of "Keith Morris showing us all how it's done!" Anyway, 10/10, I'll probably be listening to this every time I jump in the car and wind up driving too fast everywhere I go. Standout tracks in particular for me are "Man From Nowhere", "King Kong Brigade" and "Zero For Conduct".

As a side note, "I've Got News For You" would have been a lot better as a Circle Jerks song on Group Sex or Wild In The Streets. 30 years after "You Bet I've Got Something Personal Against You!" it loses some of its impact, and taking shots at Greg Ginn at this point (rather than when he actually was the king of the scene he helped create) seems lazy and cheap.

BillyLetters (May 8, 2012)

I got this on white vinyl today and listened to it a few times. So far I'd say nothing is as memorable as "Poison City," "Jeffrey Lee Pierce" or "Black Thoughts." Still a good album.

danperrone (May 8, 2012)

am i the only one who isn't crazy about these guys? i mean they're all right, and the pedigree is cool, but i just can't see myself listening to this too often.

MN_DrNick (May 8, 2012)

I really haven't thought about whether this is better than First Four or not. I really need to listen to them back to back finally.

TheDoodlyMan (May 8, 2012)

better than First Four?

Thumbs (May 8, 2012)

Thumbs split.

oldpunkerforever (May 8, 2012)

No Frills punk, love it-oldpunker-

MN_DrNick (May 8, 2012)

Another great release from these guys.

johngentile (May 8, 2012)

From the mouth of Mr. Keith Morris Himself: "Mr. Scratch = DERF SCRATCH who was the bassist in FEAR!"

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