It’s damn near impossible to fathom a band releasing a debut album that can summon the rebirth or total resuscitation of hardcore and punk, but that miraculous injection is exactly what OFF! have jacked into the bloodstream of a bloated and nostalgically remembered genre with their 16 songs in 16 minutes debut stamp of anger, piss and ideals.

Spoiler alert: if you don’t consider yourself a punk or hardcore fan, don’t write me in anger if you spend your hard-earned money on a 16-minute album that I have audaciously handed five stars. This is an album that has the power to jolt you raging and juiced into the punk stratosphere, but will probably just leave you bitching about the brutal racket and an absence of actual songs or musical talent. You’ll know what you’re getting yourself into in the opening 10 seconds of lead track “Wiped Out.” By the time the blazing chainsaw guitar kicks in and Keith Morris howls “In my disconnect,” you know exactly whose world you’ll be inhabiting for the next 16 minutes. Before the next minute passes, OFF! will have heroically squeezed in two verses, two huge refrains and a demented squall of a guitar freak out while the band bangs, kicks and spits against the walls trying to confine its sound.

If you are a hardcore fiend or an American punk, OFF! is an essential purchase. At 56 years old, Keith Morris has been punk since the word’s inception. As a founder of Black Flag and as the singer and commanding presence of the Circle Jerks, the man is an undisputed hardcore luminary. That he is still making music is a testament to his character. That he still has the guts, obstinance and unmitigated skill to throttle the genre back to life with the ferocity and passion of any landmark band in punk’s history is nothing short of astounding. Morris has spent the better part of 20 years trying to call to arms his fellow Circle Jerks and make another album. That pursuit failed him time and again, perhaps creating irrevocable tears between the CJs, but that failure proved fruitful with the creation of OFF! That Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Stephen McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Earthless) have aligned their relentless spirit and viciously talented musicianship to firebomb a desolate landscape and miraculously cultivate fertile soil in its wake is nothing short of a revelation.

Every second of OFF! is a barnburning sonic assault full of piss, outrage and supreme confidence. Not a moment is contrived or wasted. The band thrashes about mixing Rubalcaba’s furious drumming, McDonald’s chugging bass lines and Coats’ scarily fevered guitar assault while Morris barks rabid lines of righteous venom into the mic. The man has been around long enough to see the birth of hardcore in Reagan’s first term, lived through every recession and corporate windfall since, and, by God, he’s still channeling that hostility with a warrior’s voice and vigor of a young man 30 years younger.  Morris spews the diatribe “Is my happiness down? I’m not the only one. I’m not alone. As you borrow and bomb! I wanna stab your tires. I know I’m not that special. Set fire to your lawn as you borrow and bomb” on “Borrow and Bomb.”  On “Jet Black Girls” he declares, “Out in the night, immortality calls,” before the power is yanked in the middle as he groans “watching paint dry” with distorted vocals. A 13-second respite is offered in the patient, tension-building intro to the mid-album standout “King Kong Brigade” before Coats’ fighter jet guitar assault rains from overhead and Morris professes, “I wanna club you like a baby seal, staple your scalp to my steering wheel.” The brash fury and bloody wit comes and comes in a one-minute blitzkrieg all the way until Morris thematically brands the album with the shout “Feelings are meant to be hurt!”

Thrown on OFF! in a crowd of the uninitiated, stand back and enjoy the resulting chaos. To anyone clamoring for a long-awaited Circle Jerks follow-up, a return to the glory days of hardcore dominance in the spirit of Black Flag or an answer to the prayer for the sophomore Sex Pistols album that never came,  OFF! is your salvation. These aging punks are stomping terrain they forged, and they’re waging a noble assault against wrongs of the world in yet another election year with urgent gall and balls by the crotchful.


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About Justin Wesley

Justin has been a contributor for The Silver Tongue since May of 2012. He resides in Indianapolis, IN where he currently produces content at Cha Cha and writes for Laundromatinee. He adores The Clash, The Beatles, Wilco, Waits, Springsteen and everything in between on the music front. His love of film veers toward Scorsese, Malick and the two big Andersons (Wes and P.T.) and he has an affinity for any brand of writing both rich in head and heart.