Album review: Off’s ‘First Four EPs’


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Wow, Keith Morris is still bummed out. The singer helped define Los Angeles punk rock in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a member of both Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, where he yowled about nervous breakdowns, drunken binges and running wild in the streets. Thirty years later, as lead singer of Off!, he screams about panic attacks and black thoughts and brags about “spreading the fear in poison city” while guitar (Dimitri Coats, of Burning Brides), bass (Steven McDonald of Redd Kross) and drums (former Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba) pound forth. Mysteriously, it all still sounds completely convincing. “I don’t feel OK!” wails Morris in “Panic Attack.” “Make this go away!”

“First Four EPs” consists of 16 tracks that clock in at just over 18 minutes, each song a miniature declaration that, while no longer breaking any rules — or offering any hint that this was recorded in 2010 and not 1979 — delivers enough righteous hard-core fury and, most important, stellar riffs and anthemic choruses to silence any doubters. The highlights include “Jeffrey Lee Pierce,” an ode to the late Gun Club singer, and, best, “Blast,” in which Morris acknowledges his 15 minutes of fame as punk lightning rod in the ’80s. Rather than bemoaning the moment’s passing, though, he embraces its memory: “I wouldn’t have it any other way — I had a blast!” You can tell.


— Randall Roberts

“First Four EPs”
Vice Records
Three stars out of four