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OFF! First Four EPs Review

Compilation. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Solid snottiness from one of punk’s founding fathers and his not-so-merry men.

Alex Deller 2011

Proof positive that not all punks mellow with age, this 16-track outburst from grizzled hardcore supergroup OFF! does what it says on the tin, compiling the band’s first four limited-edition singles within a typically stark Raymond Pettibon sleeve.

Star of the show and main draw for those in the know is frontman Keith Morris, who helped kick-start US hardcore’s early days first as part of the legendary Black Flag and then fronting Circle Jerks. Along for the joyride are Steven McDonald of irreverent snotmeisters Redd Kross, Dimitri Coats of the rather less-distinguished Burning Brides and tireless punk/indie workhorse Mario Rubalcaba, whose enviable sticksmanship can be heard clattering across records by Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Earthless and Clikatat Ikatowi.

In an era of never-ending reformations, resurrections and cash-ins it’s to their ultimate credit that OFF! have at least left the songs – if not the signifiers – of their storied pasts behind them. Here, they’ve penned a clutch of new 40-second blurts that crib from a 30-year-old template without leaving questionable smears on past achievements in the same way as, say, Articles of Faith or Battalion of Saints.

The results, it has to be said, are surprisingly solid, with Morris sounding like he hasn’t quite got those old frustrations off his chest as he gobs over tracks like I Don’t Belong, Panic Attack and F*** People. Each one is a brisk, assertive exercise in hardcore classicism that cocks a snook at comfortable middle-age, transcends Coates’ somewhat staid riffing and rather begs the question as to why Morris might’ve wasted his time guesting on tracks by My Chemical Romance and Trash Talk when he’s still got lead like this in his pencil.

Things pack a decent punch to be sure, and it’s admirable that OFF! are refusing to rest on their laurels and harp on about how great things used to be, like so many of the former trailblazers who’ve accomplished precious little since their teens. While this is all well and good, it’s also perhaps inevitable that OFF! should lack the numinous sense of urgency that the first wave of hardcore acts possessed and which successive generations have, at their very best, continued to draw from. This needn’t be anything like a death knell for the band – after all, no-one was seriously expecting Nervous Breakdown MKII or a modern-day Live Fast, Die Young – but whether they can stay the distance in the pit amongst hungry young ‘uns weaned on F***ed Up, Career Suicide, Night Birds and Social Circkle ultimately has yet to be seen.

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