I’m a perfectly balanced individual* and I’m pretty happy at the moment but I just felt the need to RAGE tonight and what better companion could I have chosen than Off! Wasted Years? none better, that’s what!
I’m tempted to review Wasted Years simply by typing ‘It’s Fucking Great!’ thirty six times and posting a clip of me alarming my dog by slam dancing in my front room, but I shan’t. Instead, I implore you to watch this video of two of the lesser tracks on the album**:
I love Off! I truly do, ever since they kicked open the doors to my affections in 2014. But hey I was always going to love a band featuring the singer from Circle Jerks, the bassist from Redd Kross, the drummer from Earthless and a one time Mark Lanegan guitarist. Okay, so I’ve had to prune out some of these guy’s CVs – no room for Midget Handjob in that resumé! Keith Morris, Steven McDonald, Mario Rubalcaba and Dimitri Coats … wow.
But this is no bunch of showboating, ego totin’, secretly Republican votin’ grandees – Off! slam like a lump hammer and sting like a rat bite. This is no forensic historical recreation of hardcore punk, Wasted Years is a fantastic urgent album that can swing with anything in the genre. Easy. 16 songs in 22 minutes = perfection. No jokey gimmicks, no daft intros, no whingeing, no whining – this is just an adrenalin fuelled fucking rage from ‘Void You Out”s opening words ‘Blue vs. Grey, red and the blue’ through to the (last and) title tracks’ closing words ‘You were never on my side, never on my side’. This is proper hardcore just like grandma used to bake^* and it feels like being hit by a train; in a good way.
Off! cleverly avoid one of the major pitfalls of banging out this type of music, namely the fact that listening to more than a LP side can sound a bit like being sat on a bus next to a ranting lunatic with a megaphone for an hour, by varying their attack and tempo sufficiently throughout to give more than enough variation and interest to carry it all on through. This was always going to be the case in any band with Coats and Rubalcaba in, these are some seriously skilled musicians and there are some great micro guitar solos in tracks like ‘Exorcised’ and ‘All I Can Grab’ to keep your pecker up.
All the usual hardcore punk targets are present and correct, namely authority in all its’ oppressive, narrowly self-interested, capitalist pig guises and in particular the rise of the right – ‘Red White and Black’ being a real barn burner. Let’s face it, you know what’s coming – have at you bloated plutocrats! Yeah, that showed you! I love this stuff, always have and it chimes with large chunks of my own knee jerk lefty political views, hell I bet these at least two vegans in the band.
Keith Morris fronts Off! amazingly well, it has to be said. Okay so the man has had a lot of practice but bearing in mind his previous bad habits he sounds like a man reborn on Wasted Years. Forceful, but never screechy or shouty, clear and yet very passionate, his vocals are a masterclass in punk delivery and timing, an absolute masterclass.
It is difficult to pick highlights from an album this consistent but here’s my attempt:
- Death Trip on the Party Train: everything from the title on in, just screams aggressive perfection.
- Void You Out: for sheer anger and attack.
- Red White and Black: for slowed down mosh-y section in the middle*^
- Exorcised: for the line ‘Today’s as good a day as any / To tell you to go get fucked’.
But picking out the highlights isn’t the point because the impact of Wasted Years is in its’ effect as a cumulative collective blow. Just whack it on and mosh away to your heart’s content, it makes me feel more alive than I have done in ages.
I could go on, but let’s face it you probably could have actually listened to Wasted Years in the time it has taken to read this far and made you own mind up. Add in a clever black and white aesthetic, maintained across all their releases^^ and best of all, some Raymond Pettibon artwork and I think I may have just reached Nirvana (the transcendent state, not the deodorant selling band). If you have even a single punk molecule in your body then Wasted Years is for you and I recommend it heartily.
Final score just in – Off! 16: Bloated plutocrats 0.
PS. Should have been way higher that #10 in my list of Top 10 LPs from 2014. I’ll still be rocking this one in years to come.
*once the twice hourly twitching fits, screaming in tongues and bouts of mindless violence pass.
**I really should get a job in sales shouldn’t I?
^*back when her band, Oppression Bandage, opened for Flipper way, way back in the day.
*^plus for the realisation, on my fourth go round of this LP tonight, that Off! manage to divide a 1:39 song into sections, such is their accelerated majesty.
^^I also have the box set of 7″ singles called, with admirable clarity, The First Four EPs.