Home, Off With Theirs Heads’ third full-length, (or fourth, depending on which side of the Hospitals debate you land on) finds the group diving deeper into the rabbit hole of experimentation they began digging on 2010’s In Desolation, while still remaining firmly grounded in the realm of gritty pop-punk. As such, it’s the rare album that should deflect both “all their albums sounds the same” and “sell out!” accusations.
The band recycle a few ideas from past glories: the guitar lick about halfway through opener “Start Walking” strongly recalls “Until the Day I Die” and first single “Nightlife” in nearly structurally identical to In Desolation’s “Drive.” The group even offer a re-recording of “Janie," one of the strongest tracks from their early days. It's a bit slower than in its original form and Bill Stevenson’s booming production shaves some of its rough edges off, making it just different enough to warrant inclusion.
While listeners who look to Off With Their Heads for a reliable dose of gruff-throated, self-hating pop-punk will find it in these tracks, there are plenty of deviations from the standard OWTH formula on Home. “Please Don’t Make Me Go” is a post-grunge ballad that, with a more conventional rock vocalist would feel at home sandwiched between the latest Foo Fighters and Green day tracks on your local rock station. “Stolen Away” is similar to In Desolation’s biggest experiment “My Episodes” in song structure and lyrical concept, but it contains a stronger melody, and employs synths(!) that help it stand on its own and make it stronger overall.
The new paths the band travel on Home aren’t simply limited to music, however; they employ some new tactics lyrically as well. “Focus On Your Own Family,” which by the way, is probably the group’s best song title since “I May Be a Lot of Shitty Things, But at Least I’m Not a Rapist Like You” is an altogether positive, inspirational anthem, although musically, it’s as furious as anything in the OWTH canon.
The only major fault to be found in Home comes in the form of “Take Me Out.” It’s a fairly standard Off With Their Heads song, which still puts it head and shoulders above most other modern pop-punk. However, compared to the out and out greatness of past closing tracks like “Jackie Lee,” “I Hope You Know” and “Clear the Air,” it doesn’t measure up. It would be a fine addition to the album were it somewhere else in the track listing, especially since the aforementioned “Stolen Away” would have made such a great closer.
The adventurous approach taken on Home recalls what Joyce Manor did on last year’s underrated Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, which is not to say that Home sounds like a Joyce Manor album, but the similarities are striking. There’s the weird slow song in the middle that throws off the flow, in the best way possible. There’s a song with electronic instruments out of nowhere, and there’s a version of a song you already know that sounds different enough to throw you off (“Janie” here, “Video Killed the Radio Star” there.)
In Home, Off With Their Heads have crafted an album that should satisfy both fans looking for more of the same, and listeners who like to see the band stretch their legs a bit, creatively. Ryan Young can still out-gruff almost anyone, but he’s also using the cleaner voice he debuted on In Desolation more than ever. You can’t please all the people all the time, but Home is an admirable attempt to do just that, and an enjoyable listen that can stand proudly among the band’s best work.