Relentless of pace, OFF! hail an era where thrash metal was yet to be invented.
Noel Gardner 2012
Since emerging just over two years ago, OFF!, a phlegmatic quartet from Los Angeles, have routinely been described as a "hardcore supergroup". Aside from the fact that no purported supergroup ever wished to be labeled as such, it isn’t strictly accurate regarding its members’ CVs.
Guitarist Dimitri Coats spent most of the 00s supporting arena-sized bands with his garage/hard rock combo Burning Brides; drummer Mario Rubalcaba has an extensive list of former projects, Rocket from the Crypt being perhaps the best known.
However, it’s the legacy of OFF! vocalist Keith Morris that most obviously informs the sound of their debut album proper, which – like 2011’s First Four EPs collection, a studio album in all but name – barrels through 16 songs averaging roughly a minute apiece. Approaching 60-years-old and an arresting figure with his gym rope-thick dreadlocks, Morris is one of the founding fathers of American hardcore punk: initially the frontman of Black Flag, he left after one EP to form the comparably quick and unruly Circle Jerks.
Steven McDonald, like Morris a prime mover in early-80s Cali punk with his band Red Cross (later Redd Kross), completes the line-up on bass; as with his three bandmates, OFF! finds him rocking out with more brevity and snot than any time since his youth.
Given that all involved are perfectly capable of rockist indulgence should they so desire, it’s remarkable how purist a reenactment of three-decades-old LA HC this record is. There are virtually no choruses as such, just one- or two-line sloganeering refrains; guitar solos do happen, but rarely for more than, say, 10 seconds. The pace is relentless, but never absurdly fast – OFF! hail an era where thrash metal was yet to be invented.
Moreover, a grounding in hardcore history will add spice to Morris’ lyrics. Songs like Jet Black Girls and Feelings Are Meant to Be Hurt namecheck faces and places from his musical upbringing, while I Got News for You (the album’s high point) and Elimination swing an axe at those who would rewrite or commodify the culture that the OFF! vocalist helped to create.