Off!’s first proper album—following the band’s First Four EPs—dropped last week. The band’s new installment delivers on the promise of short, sweet, retro SoCal hardcore. Sure, the surprise of First Four EPs is gone—that they were able to match the sound and fury of early 80’s hardcore so immaculately—but what’s lost in surprise is made up for in hard, fast, stripped down and pissed off tunes. The point here is that the formula has not been tweaked in any major way. And that’s just fine. Really, they’re better off for it. Aesthetic exploration is not Off’s raison d’être. The aggression, the ferocity, the hooks, the breakneck pace is what matters and that’s all here.
One of the things we love about Off! is that every detail is carefully considered. It’s as if the band arrived fully formed and as such they present their wares as a complete package. The sound, the visuals, and the attitude are all part of a concept that aims to capture a very specific aura.The whole enterprise is well designed, right down to the vinyl color and the cover art: 1) black or white, 2) a new drawing by Raymond Pettibon (in black and white).
We also appreciate the band’s economy of means. They know exactly what they want to accomplish and they view the recording process as simply a means to an end, a process for getting from Point A to Point B in the shortest time possible. Thus, the rough edges are left intact. For instance, sometimes Keith’s vocals sound like he’s been recorded too close to the mic, giving the effect that he’s barking through a megaphone. Other times songs begin and end with short bursts of feedback and white noise. Some may call it sloppy, but we deem it necessary. Details like these just add to the immediacy of the material. The point here is to get it done quick, to get in and get out, to get it down on tape. There’s no looking back, no regrets, no second-guessing, no polishing of edges. Because there’s no time. And no need. The songs are short, sweet, and to the point.
Similarly, the artwork by Pettibon is scrawled out in black ink on white ground, no need (or time) for color.
Going by Off!’s standards I’ve gotten terribly redundant and long-winded, so I think I’ll quit. In closing, know that there are no shades of gray here. Off!’s mission statement has again been clearly and forcefully articulated. In black and white.