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.