Friday, April 22, 2011

OFF! - First Four EPs (VICE, 2010)

On October 15, 2010, vocalist Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From The Crypt) were featured on "Last Call with Carson Daly." Banding together as OFF!, the fearless foursome performed their entire first EP (simply titled 1st EP) in front of NBC's TV cameras at Club Lingerie in their home base of Los Angeles. Running through the set at a clip equivalent to a star high-school miler's four laps, KM and friends ticked a moment in time worthy of being shot by Al Flipside or Penelope Spheeris for a viewing audience arguably more in need of a punk-rock boot to the head than the Pablo Cruise passengers from thirty years ago. Morris' Johnny Rotten-raised-in-SoCal sneer hasn't lessened one iota since his classic turns on Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown EP (1978) and the Circle Jerks' Group Sex (1980)/Wild In The Streets (1982) twin killers. Prior to the "Last Call..." live footage, here was Morris' take on the current state of the music he had a major role in shaping: "We're older guys. We don't really listen to a lot of the new punk rock bands. I mean, you can go the Warped Tour and you can see all of these emo, screamo boy bands. If you're a 13-year-old girl, that's cute and swell and wonderful. But if you're like older guys like us, that's not happening."

For "older guys" like KM -- who's still screaming at the age of 55 -- OFF! (yet another band named after an insecticide) are a breath of polluted air for those who sucked on intoxicants from Black Flag's vast spray can BACK IN THE DAY™. Thirty-two years after Morris' initial spasms, The First Four EPs collection recalls the nascent days of BF in more than one instance. Tense 'n' terse compositions lasting around a minute each in length. Lyrics dripping with several coats of anger and intensity. Raymond Pettibon's distinctive artwork that's as important to the band's vision as any instrumentalist. The most crucial likeness? KM's ageless voice box. From Pettibon in the First Four EP's liner notes: "Keith could've been born with a microphone in his hand, though he spits righteous spiel without for the privileged backstage or on the street. Cole Porter would have loved him for his enunciation and interpretation if he could have gotten past the shock and rush of Dimitri's, Steve's and Mario's accompaniment."

Thankfully, the "shock and rush" of Morris' supporting cast pace all 16 OFF!-erings in a running time faster than your track-star brother's 5K result from the Eastern Regionals. "Scared and soaked in sweat/How worse can this get?" shouts KM on "Panic Attack," and the pronounced fear is much worse than your bro's asthmatic teammate who left the necessary inhaler in his red-headed girlfriend's glove box. Spray-painting the band's moniker on a wall amongst spartan surroundings, "Darkness" doesn't turn off the Todd Stadium lights on its brutal truth shining in your face ("You're the problem/We're the solution"). Bet you and your Cocks High School buds would suck a schlong in order to skate a reconstituted Mount Trashmore ramp to the strains of "Upside Down" being played live. 'Til that happens, watch the vid with jealous rage and decipher this, dudes: "You wonder why I'm always shouting/You wonder why I've gotta yell/You ask me why I don't hang out/'Cause you turned this into a livin' hell." Had you and your brother taken the suggested Advanced Placement art class instead of slacking in a study hall, perhaps there would've been two scholarships to Virginia Commonwealth University at term's end. But alas, the aimlessness turned black paint into "Black Thoughts" ("I crash into a wall/No feelings at all/How far will I go/Before I hit the bottom"). While you were doing your best Tony Alva impersonations and pestering homeless veterans on the boardwalk, here's what was missed from Dr. Morris' "I Don't Belong" lecture: "Hit on Miss Liberty/Under the cherry tree/Drunk on hypocrisy/I'm standing in the shadows/And I'm pissing in the punch bowl." Next day's plans included smoking wacky weed and blasting Dave Matthews Bland bootlegs in your white Rastafarian friend's Jeep, thus the glimpses of "Poison City" went uncaptured ("No pictures/No flowers/Crumbling towers/Glamorize the fallen rubble/Stirring up all this trouble"). Since DMB kills eardrums and engines dead, you weren't able to hear Dr. Morris' heartfelt eulogy for his friend "Jeffrey Lee Pierce." Here's some final thoughts: "A river runs through his esophagus/To a swamp buried in his chest/So carry off, Jeffrey Lee/And we'll burn that Christmas tree."

Carson Daly: You're OFF! my shitlist.

-Gunther 8544

28 comments:

Rutledge said...

This is what I'd call a classic Gunther review! Wow, is Keith really 55? Holy shit! I wish Rollins were still this relevant!

gunther said...

Yeah, Keith is less than five years younger than my mom. Hard to believe, really. She'd have a hard time defining "punk rock" to anyone.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Did I see a fucking use of BACK IN THE DAY™ back There? I Did! I did! See a use of BACK IN THE DAY™!!!! (Back there)

So I gotta 'new' one...

OFF! has been proven to me by Gunny to be the REAL-DEAL® (or '®eal-deal' is ok too)

Seriously. I really need to get ahold of this. Gunny makes that fact verily real and nervous. Thank you SHEETS gang.

Rutledge said...

We all are so old that the average music fan of today's idea of "back in the day" refers to a time period when we were already doing zines. "Back in the day I saw Good Charlotte open for blink-182!" Reminds me of the time this kid at a turnpike stop noticed my Notre Dame shirt and was like, "I remember them...Back when they had that quarterback...Brady Quinn."

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Ruts, I realize the total relativeness of the term BACK IN THE DAY™ and yr totally correct about your stated scenerio. Shit like that makes me laugh real-deal® hard... or when you tell someone you llike 'punk' and they say "oh, like 30 Seconds to Mars?" Anymore I just say "Yeah! Exactly like that!"

In the realm of the existentialist nightmare that has become my mundane riding of the thin line between too little and not enough, I am tired of the semantic fight of what I call punk and what a bunch of square fucks regurgitate what they are told is punk.

Also, I just 'gunthered' my sausage biscuit by adding a potato cake to it. And it was fucking real-deal® Delicious!

gunther said...

OFF! are most definitely the REAL-DEAL®, Shawn. Even though I've got the CD, I'll probably score the 7-inch box set for artistic purposes.

Bad Religion opened some shows for blink-182 BACK IN THE DAY™. If I'd been Brett, I would've retired the band for good before OK-ing that B.S.

"Gunthering" a sausage biscuit, huh? Awesome! Next time I'm at Bojangles' or Hardee's, I'll do the same.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Bojangles? Its like you live on another planet man...

Planet Suffolk (to be pronounce 'Sawfuck'

gunther said...

No Bo's in Cincy? Man, I'd miss the Cajun Filet Biscuits. I "Gunther" those, too.

Rutledge said...

Bo's is near the top of my "chains I wish we had in my town" list. #1: Steak N' Shake.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

I will never forsake a Steak-n-Shake again Josh. I swear it on the bloodmoon Itself!

gunther said...

Josh, didn't you call Johnny Rockets "a B-grade Steak N' Shake"? Good food, for sure, but it was a bit overpriced. Next time, I'll just get an after-Hardee's shake or something.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

I have never been able to bring myself to actually step into a Johnny Rockets... I know this will sound exceptionally stupid, but they don't seem 'real' enough for me to take seriously. Like they are trying too hard or something. I guess when it comes to some things I CAN be all 'Judge Judy' about it...

gunther said...

Best thing about JR is the chocolate malts. Other than that, I'd rather eat at The Baron's Pub in Sawfuck any day. I see your point about the forced realism, Shawn.

Breaking news: Keith Morris and my friend Debra will be on the cover of DS #3. She took the picture when OFF! played in B-More last month.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Can't wait to see that issue and that cover Gunny. Sounds really cool man. Really cool... for some reason I expect a certain amount of degregation converning the cover shot of a zine called DIRTY SHEETS but I realize its no HORIZONTAL ACTION...

I will still cherish it though. I fucking promise.

gunther said...

The DS blog will always be the main thing, but it's cool having a print version to pass around at shows and such. Haven't perfected the art of giving out laptops yet. I'll keep working on it, though.

Rutledge said...

Shawn, your instincts are totally on-point! If Steak N' Shake is The Saints, Johnny Rockets is at best Green Day. I don't have the facts to back this up, but JR strikes me as a contrived, wanna be retro joint vs. Steak N' Shake being The Genuine Article. Plus for thrifty foodies like Gunther, Steak n' Shake cannot be beat! Full meals under four bucks? Yes, please!

Shawn Abnoxious said...

Yeah, STEAK AND SHAKE isnt one of my first choices of late... The family is all about CULVERS right now (which I think is a bit better than the shake) but I always imagine getting STEAK N SHAKE and getting two of those $4 meals just because I can.

Rutledge said...

In an almost entirely unprecedented maneuver, the Rutledges actually COOKED tonight! Boiled pierogies and brats grilled on the Foreman. Mmmm! Gotta save the big bucks for our upcoming foray to Indiana. Steak N' Shake, we're comin' for ya!

gunther said...

Man, we'll never see a Steak N' Shake in Tidewater. Oh, my Johnny Rockets visit was the same night of The Church show last April. My brother covered the tickets, so I wasn't too upset about the food total.

Brats on a Foreman? Gotta try it.

Rutledge said...

I've never seen a Steak N' Shake outside of the Midwest or Florida. I have a bone to pick with Johnny Rockets because I had a grilled chicken sandwich there the week of my wedding, and it was disgusting. But maybe it was my fault for ordering chicken at a burger joint. At least J.R. is half-affordable compared to Red Robin. Charging 7 or 8 bucks for a burger is just highway robbery - unless you're Fudds.

gunther said...

My favorite thing to get at Fudd's is the 2/3 pound Southwest Burger with guacamole and a chocolate shake. I've never left there hungry, that's for sure. Nothing's worse than going out to eat and getting a shitty meal.

Rutledge said...

For some reason, Mrs. R. has placed Fudds on her shit list, so I rarely have the chance to dine there. My standing order is the buffalo burger with guac, although I've branched out now that they offer elk and boar. The music's pretty good there most of the time - a definite plus.

gunther said...

Gotta try the buffalo burger one day. Many of my friends swear by it. Had the ostrich on my last visit. Pretty good, though it was a bit on the dry side. What's elk and boar like?

Rutledge said...

The boar is delicious - a tad sweet yet also smokey. Not too far off the bison vibe in terms of texture and flavor. Still waiting to try the elk. It's #1 on my list for the next time I frequent Fudds.

gunther said...

"Gunther, your shake is ready!" Hope to hear that again very soon. Sawfuck needs a Fudd's badly.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

A while back, the infamous Liam Dolan accompanied by my future wife and the illustrious Mark Zero were witness to the ingestion of a 1lb burger made from the hands of a second shift cook wearing the uniform of a first shift job at the last few remaining days of an olde-tyme greasy spoon spot named THE HOMESTEAD...

We stopped in after seeing the horrid movie MISSION TO MARS and kept giving each other the thumbs-up and saying "Have a nice ride dude" (which still pops up from time to time in convos since) but anyway, the 1lb burger was seen to me as a challenge, so i took it on... Like I said, it was the last days of THE HOMESTEAD restaurant whose owners were proud of the fact that the ceiling in the place was an antique and worth over $20,000 but totally blind to the fact that COUNTRY FRIED STAKE on their SPEACLES board was actually spelt wrong... So was SPECIALS... But who is keeping score?

So THE HOMESTEAD is no more but that burger was fucking delicious. Fried on a motherfucking griddle son! I said GRIDDLE! It was an amazing sandwhich to the likes I have not seen since...

BEAUTY took on another meaning that night...

gunther said...

I've only eaten the pound burger at Fudd's one time. Didn't get the chocolate shake that night, thus I had some extra room for it. What was on your griddle special?

Country Fried Stake would be a pretty good name for a band.

Shawn Abnoxious said...

My griddle Special? Gunny, that was a rather touching come on but I am a married family man.