The year is 2010. Legendary hardcore punk frontman Keith Morris has a new band. They’re called OFF! and I just bought their CD First Four EPs from FYE. I get home and pop it in my stereo, and I’m blown away. 20 minutes later, the CD finishes playing. I hit play again.
OFF! gave me everything I wanted in a punk band. Their songs were short, fast, and loud. Keith’s voice sounded excellent as he screamed and shouted about daaaarkneeeessss and panic attack(!!!)s. His backing band featuring members of Rocket From The Crypt and Red Kross matched his intensity perfectly. And though 15 years had passed since the iconic singer’s last studio recording, First Four EPs delivered his best material since the first three Circle Jerks records.
Fast forward to 2022. OFF! has a new record coming out. It’s called Free LSD, and it’s being marketed as “a heavy punk industrial free jazz soundtrack recording”. I’ll admit, I was a bit thrown off by this blurb from the press release at first. Industrial? Free jazz? What the fuck is all this about?
My fears of OFF! becoming some weird jam band or something ridiculous were quickly calmed when I hit play on the music video for the first single “War Above Los Angeles”. It kicked fucking ass! Sure, it sounded slightly different from the band’s standard fare, but sometimes change is good. And in this case, the change was welcomed. This track, like most of Free LSD, offers a refreshing, more fleshed out take on hardcore from a guy who’s been doing this shit longer than most of us have been alive. The unbridled aggression and intensity is still there, but the production is much more polished and the song structure has a level of depth that the last three records were lacking.
There’s a decent amount of weird, fuzzy, funky experimental shit going on, especially compared to the straight forward nature of the first few OFF! records. But I find this experimentation to be pretty enjoyable and really, at its core, Free LSD is still a hardcore punk record, and a great one at that. There are some incredible songs on here. “Kill to Be Heard” is my favorite. Other standouts include the aforementioned “War Above Los Angeles”, along with “Muddy the Waters”, “Smoking Gun”, and the title track. I could do without the four noisy instrumental interludes, but they’re not overly offensive either.
If you like anything Keith Morris has ever done, there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll appreciate Free LSD. After five decades in the game, this record is arguably some of his most ambitious work to date.
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