Black Flag

All posts tagged Black Flag

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

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!?

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Black Flag

Album: What the…

Release Date: 12/3/12

Rating: 1.5/5

For many, Black Flag are what it means to be hardcore. The abrasive and rebellious act pioneered the early 80’s hardcore punk and straight edge scenes. They took punk up about ten notches, incorporating elements of Black Sabbath’s trademark heavy riffing and The Stooges’ primal energy into an aggressive juggernaught.

Later material featured the dark and satirical poetry of frontman Henry Rollins. Their sound started to evolve as well, slowing the tempos and leading into proto-grunge and sludge. Black Flag disbanded by 1986, leaving much of the late 80’s/early 90’s alternative movement to owe a huge debt to the band’s legacy.

In the years since, the members have gone very separate ways. Rollins formed the successful Rollins Band project and went on to write several books and become an international spoken word artist. Guitarist Dez Cadena joined the Misfits in 2002 and has been writing and touring with them since. Earlier this year however, founding guitarist and songwriter Greg Ginn decided to resurrect Black Flag, much to the dismay of his former band mates.

Despite a lawsuit pending over the use of the name “Black Flag,” Ginn decided to hire a new crop of musicians for the project. Joining the picture are Gregory Moore on drums, singer Ron Reyes (who has since been replaced by pro skateboarder Mike Vallely) and bassist Chuck Dukowski for the new album, What the…

The album features much of the bark found on the bulk of the old material, but lacks the bite. Lackluster performances on tracks such as “Shut Up,” “My Heart’s Pumping” and “Get Out of My Way” show a lack of inspiration, or perhaps lack of the original chemistry of Black Flag. Other lukewarm tracks like “Wallow in Despair” attempt to grasp the lyrical angst of their class Damaged LP, but fail to really get off the ground.

The few highlights of the album would include “The Chase” and “No Teeth” proving interesting musically. The grinding hardcore riffs sound closer to vintage Black Flag than anything else on What the…

Overall, What the…‘s title best describes it. The album as whole sparked the questions “why now?” and “why this?” The songs Ginn comprised aren’t exactly terrible, and perhaps under the moniker of a new and separate project, they may have more of an impact. What the… feels like the sad cries of a tarnished legacy.