OFF!: First Four EPs
Artist: OFF! Title: First Four EPs Release date: November 23 Label: Vice Records
In 2010, few things seem more ridiculous than a punk supergroup anchored by two guys who made their most indelible marks on American punk rock nearly 30 years ago. But, damn, OFF! pulled off an unlikely feat, making a record that gives a tip of the hat to early L.A. punk (right down to the cover art by Raymond Pettibon) while still sounding vital and urgent. This band easily could've come off as goof, but I admired its purity.
Led by Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross, OFF! is rounded out with guitarist Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides and the "young guy" of the group, Mario Rubalcaba, who drummed for Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes and currently plays with Earthless. Their record features 16 songs in just over 18 smoking minutes, with Morris sounding less cartoon-ish than he has in over 20 years and bassist McDonald making a welcome return (check out Redd Kross' early records -- essential) to performing after doing a lot of production work recently.
The music sounds like pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag and Group Sex-era Circle Jerks, with Coats very nearly replicating Greg Ginn's classic guitar sound from the early days of Black Flag. Rubalcaba, who gave RFTC a little more muscle on their last couple of records, is the perfect drummer for this project, technically proficient without sacrificing heft and steering the songs away from mind-numbing hardcore -- a feat lesser drummers invariably fail at.
The minute-long tunes are riff-y, angry, heavy, fast, and nasty, recalling the days before SoCal punk turned into the less potent, melody-based post-Descendents/All pop-punk. If you like old-school American punk, you gotta get this record.
Best song: "Blast" and "Fuck People" and "I Dont' Belong" and "Inside Out" Rotation: Heavy Deja vu: Poring over the one-sheet SST catalogs that used to come in that classic label's records when I was in high school. I'd rather listen to: Black Flag's First Four Years Grade: A-
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