REVIEW: Off! – Wasted Years (Vice Records)




Tracklisting: Void You Out / Red White and Black / Legion of Evil / No Easy Escape / Over Our Heads / Hypnotized / It Didn’t Matter to Me / Exorcised / Death Trip on the Party Train / I Won’t Be a Casualty / All I Can Grab / Time’s Not On Your Side / Meet Your God / Mr. Useless / You Must Be Damned / Wasted Years


It was 8:30am on a cold, wet Wednesday morning when my usual tranquil trudge towards the daily commute was shattered by the blast of irritating 90s techno uber smash “Higher State Of Consciousness” from a passing car. “Bloody kids”, my rapidly ageing mind screamed out as it began to formulate an impression of the petulant children who dared pollute my airspace….

As I caught up with the culprit, now stationary at a junction, I realised my error. Far from being troublesome teenagers my subtle glimpse revealed the anti-social nuisance to be a bald, middle aged man rhythmically tapping his fingers to the repetitive Josh Wink monstrosity.

Illusions obliterated, parallels began to form with alcohol fueled debates about the state of new music I’d been party to in recent years. Bemoaning the lack of originality, the dearth of rock’n’roll behaviour and the shortage of anti-establishment heroes the music industry had been declared dead and we’d returned to our beers. Twenty years after the death of Kurt Cobain and what are the musical aspirations of the noughties generation? The glorified karaoke of X-Factor, The Voice et al. and the safety-folk excrement of Mumford and Sons (I suppose they do say “fuck” repeatedly in “Little Lion Man”, but it’s hardly Woody Guthrie).

As a teenager, I distinctly remember reveling in the obnoxiousness of “our music” to the older generation and now as I prepare to enter the realms of grumpy old man mutterings about it all being “just a load of noise”, I consistently fail to find anything antagonistic about the current crop of bright young things. Sure there’s some wonderful bands emerging but where’s the bile and spite? Instead, I’m left raging against a 40-something in a polite 4-door saloon, playing a 19-year old dance track a little too loudly on his way to his (probably) mundane desk job. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be…

And so we come to Wasted Years, the third release from garage-hardcore supergroup OFF!, a band containing members of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Hot Snakes, Burning Brides and Red Kross. A more authentic line-up you’ll be hard pushed to find. Check the dictionary definition of punk rock…it’ll contain a bunch of words…it should just have a picture of these guys.

Whilst the pretty boy front-men of your favourite alt-rockers grapple with the concepts of fame and women-folk, 58 year old Keith Morris is doing exactly what he’s always done….delivering agitated diatribes against authority and corrupt institutions. When he barks “You give me the creeps / you need to be exorcised” on “Exorcised” with absolute furious conviction you know he’s a man who’ll never give in and never stop. There’s nothing new here, Morris has been ploughing this furrow since the early days of Black Flag, but there’s a passion and intensity that makes every desperate yelp seem as vital as life itself.

From the opening faint call of “one-two-three-four”, the squeal of feedback and the pummelling opening riff of “Void You Out,” OFF!’s statement of intent is clear. This is punk rock with all the aggression and intensity so often devoid in the bands who have appropriated the term since it became more fashion than political statement.

Dimitri Coats’ economical guitar cuts through the bombardment conjured up by the tight-as-fuck rhythm section of Steven Shane McDonald and Mario Rubalcaba with devastating precision. Never flashy, but always offering combative support to Morris’ vitriolic vocals, it is the simplistic driver to the 16 tracks here that all (bar one) clock in at under 2 mins. For those in a hurry they’ll take you less time to listen to than it’ll take you to read this review.

OFF!’s highlights are difficult to pinpoint, Wasted Years crashes out of the speakers at such velocity it’s almost impossible to gather your thoughts as Morris delivers lines like “when the circus comes to town euthanise those clowns” from “Red White and Black” with enough malice that you don’t even have time to question your own moral integrity. “I Won’t Be A Casualty” and “All I Can Grab” offer the most classic slices of hardcore for the purists, but it’s the bouts of sludge interspersed with buzzsaw riffs in tracks like “Legion Of Evil” and “No Easy Escape” that create the lasting impressions.

I once read a review of an AC/DC album which simply stated that the Aussie rockers had produced another AC/DC record and as they all sound identical you could only measure it in the same way you’d view the rest of their discography. The writer was a fan and gave the new long-player 11 out of 10. OFF!’sWasted Years has to be similarly assessed. I’m an unapologetic fan of the band and all the members’ previous work and these sixteen blistering old-skool hardcore songs sound pretty much like everything else the band have ever released. In an age where polite whining from our bands has become de rigueur at the expense of anarchic politicalisation, Wasted Years is utterly indispensable.

My mum, thankfully, will hate it…


Rating 5 out of 5





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