By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Cheif)
Punk outfit Off! can easily be described; simple and powerful. In an era of bloated production and YouTube stardom, Off! provide a minimalist blast of fresh air. Their intensity and DIY attitude say it all, and no where is this more prominent than on their latest release, Wasted Years.
Formed in 2009, Off! is comprised by punk legends Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes). Their vintage punk rock sound incorporates elements and ascetics of early 80’s hardcore, proving refreshing in a moden musical climate.
Many in the punk community can attest that the national scene has been in decline since the rise of corporate punk-pop acts like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte in the late 90’s and early 00’s. The punk revival of the mid-90’s had taken a backseat, as emo/screamo, punk-pop and quasi-hardcore acts rose to dominance over the last decade. However, the punk scene, like a plague of cockroaches, refused to die off despite how popular and commercial said genres became. However, as a sign-of-the-times, Off! are at the center of yet another resurgence, and an even more grassroots punk rock movement.
Off! released their second album, Wasted Years, in April 2014 to overwhelming positive reviews. Fans of the members’ previous projects are been embracive, as the sound varies little, yet stands on it’s own just enough to allow Off! a unique and memorable sound.
Wasted Years is in many ways a very complex record. Although all of the tracks don’t meet or barely meet the two-minute mark, the range of emotions vary. Lyrically, the album travels into dark territory, particular near it’s closing. Leading off with tracks “Void You Out” and single “Red White and Black,” Wasted Years comes out swinging offering no apologies. Tracks like “Legion of Evil” and “No Easy Escape” represent the tried and true classic punk ethos of nonconformity through constructive angst.
Lyrically however, more personal themes come into play with mid-album tracks like “It Didn’t Matter to Me,” “Death Trip on the Party Train” and “I Won’t Be a Casualty.” The honesty and emotional depth of the original hardcore movement becomes more obvious as the album soldiers forward. Finally, Wasted Years takes a twist of darkness on closing tracks “Time’s Not on Your Side,” “Meet Your God” and “Wasted Years.”
Wasted Years comes at the right time in music. As corporate rock continues to take hold, spouting out endless reunion tours of many acts prematurely past their prime, or a slight oversaturation of rock bands who are still making great music (Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters and even Queens of the Stone Age), Off! find ground not common settled in recent years. Their underground buzz has continued to grow, and mainstream attention is not far. Perhaps a little of that attention would not be so bad; to shed light on a new raw movement. The attention comes and goes. What remains consistent, is the pure intensity and raw emotion that is Off!
Entering the mid-2010’s, the influence of real punk and hardcore is as evident as ever. As long as fans are still pissed, still have something to say, still have something to believe in and still know a machine to rage against, Off!, as well as the subsequent movement, will always have a place among leather and spike-clad punks and hole-in-the-wall dive bars. And what better place to be!?