Off with Their Heads - In Desolation (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Off with Their Heads

In Desolation (2010)


Following Off with Their Heads' switch to the ostensibly flippy-haired roster of latter-day Epitaph, I can safely say that nothing has really changed (besides a member or two): The Minneapolis-bred punks are still playing modest shows and most importantly, they're still writing gravelly anthems of self-loathing.

The only thing that Epitaph could have potentially brought to the table (which is still a matter of assumption) is the recording quality. It's really not entirely different--just a bit higher in quality. The mix has the bass at a pretty audible level (hearing, rather than "feeling" the bass), mimicking the feel of the band's previous full-length From the Bottom. The quality difference really accentuates the energy; when the sudden verse of "Their Own Medicine" begins, you can tell there's a particular oomph to it.

The power chord-driven jams, surprisingly, have a lot more variety than anticipated. "Spare Time" has riffs that reminisce in '80s hardcore; the quavering curveball "My Episodes" has quiet chord accents on piano; there's even a double-stoppin', rockin' solo in "Their Own Medicine." The most powerful track, "Clear the Air" finds the band mastering their own dynamics, which closes the album perfectly.

Off with Their Heads has always succeeded in forgetting verbosity, and embracing zero-bullshit, poignant lyricism. There's little need for poetic devices when a line like "I look in the mirror and I see the face of a failure who will never be significant" does the job a million times better. However, in the complete opposite of Off with Their Heads' fashion, "My Episodes" offers a shed of hope from Ryan Young. His lyrical approach translates well to such a revealing sentiment ("I'm just happy right now that your arms are around me").

Everything seems like a perfect followup, but unfortunately, there are a too many moments that obviously parallel From the Bottom ("Old Man" vs. "Go On and Git Now," "I Just Want You to Know" vs. "Fuck This I'm Out," etc.). Thankfully, they come off as "part II" rather than careless recycling, but In Desolation literally just falls short from the complete greatness of their earlier material. It's simply because too many songs wallow in their own formula; it's clear that when they step out of their comfort zone, they're onto something really special. "The Eyes of Death," "My Episodes" and "Clear the Air" are the best songs they've written, and I'd really love to hear what other things they can do.

Let's just say this is still a band I'd stage dive and fuck my neck up to. Whatever; it was totally worth it.