Music Feature

Review: OFF! - 'The First Four EPs'

by Bill Chenevert
Blast OFF! with some American retro-punk

It's difficult to presume that anyone would pay much attention to these songs if they wound up composing a new Circle Jerks record. That was the original intention. Keith Morris got together with ex-Burning Brides guitarist, Dimitri Coats, to concoct new tunes for the next Circle Jerks record. But when Keith’s old band mates balked at bringing an outsider into the process, Morris took his ball and went elsewhere (perhaps an oversimplification, but you can easily scope out a dozen recent interviews with Morris where he goes into greater detail). He and Coats recruited Redd Kross bassist, Steve McDonald, and ex-Hot Snakes/Rocket from the Crypt drummer, Mario Rubalcaba, and started recording songs this past January. Keith and Dimitri would write a few, book a day in a studio, and bang out three or four songs (not takes, but completed tracks), and then repeat the process.

In a few months, they had the 16 tunes that comprise their debut, First Four EP’s. Clocking in at around 18 minutes, these songs are strongly reminiscent of what Black Flag sounded like when Morris was their frontman. The tracks are raw and brutal, but not without hooks, and the performances are pure, adrenalized energy. It’s funny, people who don’t “get” this stuff will claim that anyone can do it, but you can tell from the first few bars that these guys have a level of commitment, expertise, and skill that separates them from 90% of what passes for punk or hardcore in 2010. McDonald’s bass playing is supple and melodic, without ever calling attention to itself, and the same could be said for Rubalcaba’s drumming. Morris’s performance is a marvel; his remarkable bark manages to convey passion first and anger second, something lost on most H/C vocalists (it’s the same reason he was the best singer Black Flag ever had). This goes for his lyrics as well, which are informed by every one of his 55 years. Call this the most pleasant surprise of the year and one hell of a punk rock record. (Vice Records)

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