If you haven’t heard the hype or seen the hats, OFF! is the L.A. hardcore revivalist project headed by ex-Circle Jerks/Black Flag frontman Keith Morris, dreadlocked harbinger of teen rage. The power trio that Morris has assembled behind him consists of vetted rockers from Hot Snakes, Redd Kross and Burning Brides, which technically makes OFF! a “supergroup,” but there’s none of the bloat associated with such ensembles on the band’s first eponymous full-length. Every ounce of flab has been trimmed off, melted away, in favor of delivering the pithiest sonic “fuck you!” and/or “fuck yeah!” per song.
Although there’s none of the overproduction that might come along with the “supergroup” classification, that’s not to say there’s no self-indulgence. It’s not that the album suffers from any bizarre experiments, quite the opposite. It’s just that Morris is content to do more or less the same thing he’s already a proven master at. There’s no attempt by the band to delve into any style other than Hermosa Beach hardcore of the early ’80s. While this could go terribly wrong by less qualified practitioners, the members of OFF! have more chops than a Fairfax butcher. Punk is often associated with scrappy adolescents screaming over sloppy guitars, but the instrumentation here is as tight as a top-shelf jazz ensemble, without the studio slickness. The fact that Morris is pushing sixty is, well, kind of weird, but makes the group all the more impressive, as his denunciatory yelps drive the music along with the blistering rhythm section.
OFF! is not nostalgia music. There’s no wistful longing here. It doesn’t even feel like a “return” to the genre: it sounds like, as far as Morris is concerned, hardcore never died, and that OFF! is simply here to put out another excellent hardcore record. The authenticity goes all the way down to the album art, designed by Raymond Pettibon, whose stark cartooning has graced Black Flag, Minutemen and Sonic Youth covers. Anyone who heard the group’s previous release First Four EPs will find the self-titled LP a further distillation of what made OFF! so initially appealing. The production is thicker while still delivering a scruffy live feel, and the songs are even shorter. Not a second is wasted. OFF! is like a perfectly executed kickflip: over before you know it, but immensely satisfying.