OFF! - Live in London (Cover Artwork)


Live in London (2023)

live show

Review written by Dom Tyer

The last time Keith Morris was in town he was leading 80s hardcore legends the Circle Jerks.That night last summer they tore through Group Sex, Wild in the Streets, and more, blowing the roof off Camden’s Electric Ballroom. This time around Keith is with OFF!, the punk rock supergroup he formed in 2009 with Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), for two London shows. The first, at Moth Club, sold out before I had a chance to get a ticket, so I didn’t snooze when a live in-store/signing date at Rough Trade East was announced for the next night.

Rough Trade East is a big record shop – certainly for these days – but an intimate performance space, accommodating just 200 people once the record racks are pushed to the side. So OFF!’s appearance offered a chance to be up close and personal with a band touring one of 2022’s best punk albums. On record, Free LSD is a muscular, mind-expanding take on hardcore. Layers of electronics and saxophone bleats line up with no-nonsense 90-second blasts of heavy punk rock, offering a contrast to the more straightforward, though excellent, hardcore punk of previous OFF! albums and the fuzzy lines those records trace back to Morris’ early 80s work with Black Flag and Circle Jerks.

Live, Free LSD’s songs are shorn of the saxophone bleats beamed in from Sun Ra and The Stooges and stripped down to a new form that owes as much to hard rock as it does to hardcore. There’s a hint of this direction in Keith’s pre-gig playlist. Deep Purple, early Pink Floyd, the Texan garage band Mind’s Eye and more play over the PA before the band take the stage. When they do Keith, riffs on the playlist’s inclusion of Puss by The Jesus Lizard to namecheck the band’s feature film, also called Free LSD, whose cast of punk rock luminaries includes that band’s singer David Yow. As Keith’s spieling, Dimitri works up waves of fuzzy feedback from a flight case of hidden pedals.

And then OFF! go off! Keith exudes such kinetic energy that it’s always a surprise not to see him bouncing off the walls. Instead, he fizzes with barely contained electrical charges of momentum that power his music. As a counterbalance, when he's not conjuring feedback, Dimitri stalks the stage like the bastard son of Thurston Moore and Keith Richards, all slashing chords and strut.

 They tear through the new album's early tracks, barely pausing for breath as "Slice Up The Pie", "Time Will Come", and combative takes on "War Above Los Angeles" and "Kill to be Heard" dash by. What's particularly noticeable about the new songs, and almost all of Free LSD gets played in OFF!'s 25-song, near hour-long set, is their complexity. To accompany them on that step change from their first two albums, Keith and Dimitri have recruited a powerful new rhythm section. Bassist Autry Fulbright II (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead) and drummer Justin Brown (Thundercat, Herbie Hancock) ensure OFF! keep things tight as they stretch themselves into new shapes.

Towards the end of their frenetic set "I Don’t Belong", "Panic Attack", and "Darkness" from their first blast of EPs are shot out, their comparative simplicity allowing Autry to rock out, giving him at least a passing resemblance to Phil Lynott. And then there’s a signing in the, by now, dimly lit shop that leaves more than one fan tongue-tied in their presence.