Off! the Wall
Normally, the phrase “supergroup” conjures images of washed-out dinosaurs trying to cash in on their fame one last time for quick coke money. To add insult to injury, there usually follows an album that inevitably falls short of expectations. Remember the Firm? Foreigner? Asia? Given that track record, you’d expect The First Four EPs to suck pretty hard. Besides, being over thirty isn’t punk! Off!, however, are the exception to the rule.
Made up of former members of Black Flag, Burning Brides, Redkross and Rockets from the Crypt (Keith Morris, Dmitri Coats, Steven Shane McDonald and Mario Rubalcaba respectively), Off! is definitely a product of the scene they played a pivotal role in creating. All the hallmarks of a typical hardcore album are here: breakneck guitar riffs, minute-long songs, and non-stop drumming. Truthfully, just listening to The First Four EPs without knowing anything about Off!, you’d probably think, “Hmm…these kids are pretty tight.”
The question becomes, though: is Off! “too good” for hardcore?
The dilemma presents itself best in the form of “Crawl” from the third EP. Set at a noticeably slower tempo than the rest of the songs on the album, “Crawl” shows Off! at their most cohesive, transitioning with ease between the driving intro riff and faster verses. The result is a song that echoes Black Sabbath and the Fall rather than the Sex Pistols or the Ramones, a truly hard hardcore song.
The key to Off!’s success is simply experience. Unlike most of the other older acts that have been reuniting over the past ten years (i.e. Dinosaur Jr., Faust, et al.), the members of Off! never really worked together until now. What they lack in synergy from years of playing together, they more than make up for in collective ability.