Going Off - What Makes You Tick (Cover Artwork)

Going Off

What Makes You Tick (2023)

Church Road Records

Socially-focused UK hardcore? 11 tracks in 21 minutes? My interest was already piqued. I like to think that’s less to do with poor journalism, more to do with knowing myself. Because as it happens, there is vastly more to Going Off’s debut album than just those objective (and frankly, quite reductive) facts.

From the very get-go, you’re hit with a guitar tone that could comfortably be described as atypical for hardcore. There’s a metallic aspect and a degree of fuzz that you don’t often find in straight-up hardcore. And as the songs go by, you realise maybe why that guitar tone is necessary, because what initially seems to be straight-up hardcore (I mean that in the most positive way possible, for clarity) does actually take cues from many different places. One that I was less expecting and which the band themselves probably didn’t consciously aim for, is nu-metal. Not too frequently I should point out, but there are passages (the first riff in recent single “Premium Dreams” is a good example) when early Deftones comes to mind, or riffs which can only be described as bouncy. And that’s no bad thing. Long before that though, you get a 30-second sample of a soul track to close out the opener “More Love” that I’m ashamed I can’t identify. Not so ‘straight up’, as I said.

There is also variation in tempo and syncopation that somehow feels very British. I’m not entirely sure I can articulate what I mean by that, frustratingly (now that is poor journalism), but “Lowlife” with its borderline drone riff intro, brings to mind the grim, quotidian monotony of double yellow lines, queues outside the job centre and multipack bags of crisps (potato chips for our American chums) sold individually in newsagents. I know that’s a lot to take from a relatively simplistic song of less than two minutes, but here we are. Second track “Code of Conduct” also has both the best call to arms to kick it off (‘This is the Going Off Code of conduct!’) and then at the other end, one of the most scathing, vitriolic samples I’ve ever heard in a song. I can only presume it’s from a British TV programme in maybe the 70’s or 80’s (judging by the recording quality), which is maybe a more obvious way of injecting that British working-class sensibility. It’s an interesting combination of impotent rage, always present, yet often veiled in apathy brought about by the relentless grinding boot of the ruling classes or (as in this case) the creeping, malignant societal obsession with the immediate, the new, the disposable. But when addressed directly, that veil quickly falls away, revealing the fury within.

There is a broad spectrum approach to the songwriting, yet sonically, it remains consistent. The bleakness the record envelopes you in (in stark contrast to the its artwork) again, feels inexplicably British. It feels like it has a common ancestry with Steptoe and Son, with Mike Leigh films and the more overtly violent aspects of 80’s ‘casuals’ culture. Some of which is done quite directly through songs like “Ugly Heart”. All 1 minute 10 seconds of it (10 seconds of which is another audio clip) and its breakneck fusion of early US hardcore and its 70’s UK punk progenitors. That then rolls straight into “Flesh Prison” which has a main riff, tempo and groove that is most reminiscent of thrash, believe it or not. When they let the chords ring out in the chorus, it even sounds anthemic. But then comes the breakdown and the post-breakdown. That’s the savagery angle covered, all ends up. The vocals also feel like they’re being spat, barely contained, from someone whose very life depends on getting these words out. And yes, I do love all of the unintelligible noises wretched forth as well. It’s like Elliott from Gulch spent a summer listening exclusively to Norwegian black metal.

The replay factor in this record is off the charts. Between the frequent samples (the Robocop example being one of the greatest I’ve heard in some time) and the delivery, I can’t quite get enough of this. It’s gritted teeth, white-knuckle stuff, that’s for damn sure. Were I to raise any questions/concerns, then they might be more for the future than now. Going Off have thrown so much into this record, in all of its 21 minutes, that although I feel like I know their sonic sound as a band, I’m not sure I know what they’d sound like if you removed all of the bells and whistles. I hope that if you told them to turn up, plug and play for the next record, they’d be able to maintain the level of intensity and variety they’ve shown here. Time will tell, but for now, I’m just delighted to have another UK hardcore band on my radar who on their debut have produced a record of noteworthy quality, but have also given themselves no shortage of options in terms of where to go next.