This record comes to us courtesy of the man himself, formerly of the BARE WIRES and the Zygoteens. It’s made of 5 tracks of catchy, jangly powerpop. It’s all really reminiscent of our previous favorites IMPO & THE TENTS – but with the punk end of things dialed down ever so slightly. Things kick off with “Groovy Intuitions,” which feature the big guitars and tinny, punchy drums I love ever so much. Mr. Widener keeps things moving right along with the title track, which is no less catchy, but certainly more efficient, at only about a minute-thirty. Overall, it reminds me of GENTLEMAN JESSE, but a little more exciting, a little more active, and certainly a little more fun.
If Side-A housed the hooky pop-nuggets, Side-B holds the more brittle, jagged numbers. “Enemy Dreams” keeps up with the same pacing, but is more aggressive, more on-edge – ditto for “Slime Walker.” These tunes aren’t quite as memorable as the other side’s, but there are great moments – the yelp and keyboard on “Slime Walker” are fucking awesome. “Groovy Intuitions” may be my favorite here, but they’d all be equally amazing in a live setting. Realistically – no track here is ‘weak’; there’s good ones and better ones. As a whole, this EP offers a lot of things that I really love in music – tunefulness, energy, and economy – Widener doesn’t waste a second of runtime, and this record won’t waste yours.
LISTEN: “Enemy Dreams” on Soundcloud
BUY: Fuzz City Records
Glorious Pettibon art
‘Hardcore’ is a vile, nigh-meaningless term anymore. When we hear it, we can usually count on either getting some hilariously awful; pastel-haired scenecore nancies with synthesizers and 20-word album titles, or some huge sweaty dude with face tats for whom the music is just a sideshow for beatdowns. Seems like a lot of people (Double Negative is excused) forget that ‘hardcore’ used to be ‘hardcore punk’ – all the fun of the regular stuff, but stripped bare and sped up. Listening to the original Redd Kross EP, or Nervous Breakdown, it’s amazing to see that they’re actually sorta funny once in a while – not just breakdown/second breakdown/third breakdown/big cheestastic quadruple harmony chorus/fourth breakdown. Fortunately, Keith Morris is back with a vengeance after some mediocre flailings with late CIRCLE JERKS to remind everyone who did it first and best.
What is there left to say about a living legend like Morris? He’s nearly as old as my father, and still puts on a better, more energetic show than both of the aforementioned pretenders. His cohorts from REDD KROSS and Earthless are top notch musicians – even though Morris is center stage, the playing here, specifically the drumming, really is spectacular. He’s still got the white-hot, vinegar-and-broken-glass shriek down pat. He really does sound like he’s about to have a nervous breakdown here; without doubt, Off! remain one of the most exciting live acts I’ve seen in a while.
As for this record in particular, there’s also not much to say. This is bare-bones, high-speed punk rock. The 16 songs fly by scarcely before you blink; it’s highly similar to Morris’ work in his previous bands, but it’s not necessarily a re-tread – that would imply that it was diminished in some sense. Maybe it will be to some ears; to me, this album is 16 tracks of pure energy, which is what Circle Jerks were always about for me anyways. There’s moments of genuinely snarky and clever critique – as when Morris takes on his own scene in “I Got New For You” – it really does have a sense of a returning king. They’re not all great, but they’re all pretty good – the musicianship here is strong enough to carry less lyrically interesting songs along, and besides, they’re all barely 1 minute, so it’s hard to even dislike something that’s over before you can really form a thought about it. It’s true that this record breaks very little ground, but castigating a hardcore band for lacking musical depth and development is like criticizing the wind for blowing – that’s just the nature of the beast. It’s not the greatest album of 2012, but it’s a solid, workmanlike release that’s worth listening to; there’s really just not that much to dislike here. Morris and Co. are masters of this sound, and realistically, criticism of this album will inevitably end up being “bah humbugs” and “back when I was a young lads” from the fusty old punker-than-thou crowd. If it’s cool enough for Keith Morris to take up, it’s cool enough for you.
LISTEN: Off! Official Website
BUY: Off! at MerchLackey