Tracklist1. Wiped Out
2. I Got News For You
6. Borrow and Bomb
7. Toxic Box
8. Man From Nowhere
9. Jet Black Girls
10. King Khan Brigade
11. Harbor Freeway Blues
12. Feelings Are Meant To Be Hurt
15. Zero For Conduct
16. I Need One (I Want One)
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I can't speak from experience, but it must be tough being an old punk, at least for those old dogs who are struggling and scrapping to remain somewhat fresh and relevant. Most really can't go beyond what got them noticed in the first place; except for those diehard Rollins Band fans out there, Henry Rollins will always be known as “Henry Rollins: Former Vocalist for Black Flag.” Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg wouldn't be as moderately successful if 98% or more of their setlist wasn't Ramones tunes. The Misfits, who get their rocks off playing tunes from the '78-'83 era, recently released an album that makes Project 1950 sound like Revolver. As the kids say, “le sigh.”
Luckily, Keith Morris is making his own way. Sure he'll always be known as the former singer of Black Flag and Circle Jerks, but having been with the So-Cal supergroup OFF! for 3 years, Morris' best material has yet to come. Their self-titled debut LP is just a wee hint.
Morris and friends get wild in the streets with sixteen tracks, all barely reaching over a minute in length. Their halfpipe-ready hardcore/powerpop mutant sound was just starting to get its feet with their first four EPs, which seem to draw from the members' previous projects. The opener “Wiped Out” grinds its way out with a riff reminiscent of “Nervous Breakdown,” and guitarist Dmitri Coats borrows from Greg Ginn quite a bit over the course of the LP, switching between simple and intricate, especially on songs like “Wrong” and “Borrow and Bomb.” But between Coats and Rocket From the Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba (which may be the greatest name in punk), a Gang Green-style rock and roll flavor boils to the surface.
Their single “Cracked” has appeared on the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and why not? At 53 seconds (only 5 of the sixteen tracks go beyond a minute, since they're into the whole brevity thing) it embodies the angsty 15 year old spirit that never seemed to leave Morris: “Are you kidding, we were playing too fast? Are you smoking pot, is your head up your ass?” OFF! may be a bunch of old dudes, but they play punk to remember what it's like to be young. And they do it well.
“Harbor Freeway Blues,” with its howls and almost-melodic singing, shows Morris at his strongest. It's amazing how you can be pushing 57 and still sound better than most punk vocalists in their 20s. “Jet Black Girls” speeds along like a less politically conscious (but just as angry) Dead Kennedys.
Being who they are, they go out with a bang on “I Want One” without any pretense (or at least making a huge deal about it being the last song on the album, a quality all too prevalent in rock). Morris literally has the last laugh, but you may too once you hear his final yelp. Yes, it's all very goofy, and in no way changing the face of punk, but who cares? OFF! is the musical equivalent of cheap pizza and beer: it goes down easily and won't be too memorable in the long run, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time with it.