Off With Their Heads - From The Bottom (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Off With Their Heads

From The Bottom (2008)

No Idea

"How are you going to make your way in this world when you weren't cut out for working?"-Warren Zevon

That lyric from Zevon's song "The French Inhaler" is printed twice on the packaging of this record, once inside the booklet and again on the record itself. It's fitting for a band like Off With Their Heads, with a lyricist who often sings about living in a world that isn't always kind to those on the low end of the bracket, and some of the quirks that come with that.

If we're not counting the singles/rarities/whatever collection All Things Move Toward Their End, From The Bottom is the first true full-length from OWTH and it's a strong and focused collection of gruff, melodic, Midwestern punk that one would come to expect from this band. Much of OWTH's sound is reliant on catchy melodies, huge choruses (though I use the term loosely) that were seemingly written specifically for a bunch of beer-and-sweat-soaked, bearded dudes to scream along to, and Ryan Young's gravelly vocals. It's pretty incredible how a band this gruff can lay down songs with guitar parts and vocal harmonies that stick in one's head for days, a fact made more amazing by how seamlessly these parts fit into the entire scope of a song. The lead guitar parts in both "Wrong" and "Until The Day...", as well as the bounciness of "1612 Havenhurst" and "For The Four" are Pop-Punk 101 for example, but there's nothing here that sounds contrived, fake or thank god, mainstream.

There are some unique moments on From The Bottom that find the band branching out to the nether regions of their sound. "Go On Git Now" is a mid-tempo tune built around a minimal refrain that features clean singing over a guitar part that twinkles without sounding too crisp. The crunch behind "Fuck This, I'm Out" is almost Weezer-esque (when they were good) and the drum-heavy intro of closer "I Hope You Know" does a nice job of building anticipation for when the song really kicks into gear, and the payoff once it does is satisfying.

Young's lyrical path of self-loathing and hopelessness continues here, such as in "I Am You" (originally found on the band's split with Practice, re-recorded here) where Young sings, 'I'll tell you why I hate my fucking life and I'll tell you why I can't seem to get it right / I'll tell you why I entertain the thought of dying all the time." and "1612 Havenhurst" (originally found on the band's split with Blotto, also re-recorded here) showcases similar feelings: "Just when I think it might not be so bad, it always kicks back and tells me where I stand." And the main line in "Until The Day..." that's sure to elicit many sloppy sing-alongs in the future is "Until the day I die I fucking swear I'm gonna make your life as miserable as mine."

However, much of the second half of From The Bottom show Young's less sardonic, more apologetic and regretful side. In "Self Check Out" he sings "It's killing me, because I think you're there for me / When I realize you're not, it's back to despair," and the lyrics in "Ten Years Trouble" Young portrays himself as being particularly vulnerable: "Please don't slam the door. I never meant to hurt you / I've gotten in a lot of trouble in the last ten years / I'm always in pain and almost always in tears."

One of this biggest gripes about this record I've read from fans is how 'clean' it sounds. And while From The Bottom undoubtedly has a far superior-sounding recording compared to anything else in the band's catalogue, I wouldn't necessarily refer to it as clean or slick.

If OWTH aren't cut out for working, I can't say it's a bad thing when the by-product of that is something as awesome as this record. Highly recommended.