Album Review: OFF! – “OFF!”

OFF! is exciting. It’s fast, angry– practically bleeding vitriol. Unfairly known as Keith Morris’ comeback, OFF! is a great band in it’s own right, and their first full length will please not only fans of hardcore, but fans of punk rock in general.

Sixteen songs in sixteen minutes. Relentless doesn’t even begin to cover this album. This is pissed off moshing music with some serious content to fuel its fire. Keith Morris may be 57, but he’s never sounded angrier. At first consideration, it’s nearly impossible not to consider the fact that Morris may just be too old for punk, but every syllable he delivers is so coated in venom that you can’t help but feel embarrassed for hardcore’s new generation, so reliant on artificial sounding screams that the genre has become something of a homogenized chugging mess. Morris uses his own voice, and he’s shouting. Not growling. He’s using the same voice he’d use in everyday life, the one you use to shout at the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, the one you use when you’ve been pushed beyond the point of options. It’s powerful, human, and undoubtedly vicious. But beyond his old school approach to vocals, his age also grants him a unique perspective. On “Cracked,” Morris addresses his own age, and in a way his own allegiance with punk rock. He’s a lifer, and he’s not going to let anyone slow him down.

But again, this isn’t just about Keith Morris. The other key to this delicious musical stew is Dimitri Coats, frontman of Burning Brides. He performs as OFF!’s guitarist and plays hardcore with a zealots dedication, but also allows himself the occasional flourish, notably the rollicking atonal guitar solo on “Wiped Out.” The rest of the group is rounded out by Hot Snakes members Steven Shane (bass) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums), who despite playing hardcore with a post prefix in the past, show their true colors with OFF! and play without pretense or condescension. These guys are better musicians than they show, but it’s clear from start to finish that they own every beat and note they play without an ounce of listlessness. As a whole, OFF! comes off as more of a congregation than a band. These guys are dedicated to their sound,  and as simple as it may be, they all know to respect its power.

OFF! is an incredible throwback album, but it can’t just be looked at through a lens of nostalgia. This is relevant stuff, written by a man who’s seen a thing or two– a punk stalwart that lives and breathes the scene we all know and love. Morris doesn’t expect us to love OFF! because he’s in it, he’s a punk rocker and he knows that’s not how it works. Listen to his verbal crucifixion of those punk dinosaurs begging for a crown on “I Got News For You” (“You think you’re the king of the scene, that you created? I’ve got news for you!”). OFF! doesn’t ever rest on their laurels, they know they have something to prove and they’re not going to let a legacy be their only appeal. Punk rock is something of a lifestyle, but more so it’s a symbol of creative empowerment. Morris admits on “Jet Black Girls” that Darby Crash saved his life. If that’s the starting point to all of this, it’s no wonder OFF! is so committed, the end game isn’t just to be a band, it’s to pass the scene along to a new generation, to inspire someone who didn’t know they could make music. OFF! just might be as punk as it gets.

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