Listening to Off!, one gets the sad feeling that this is a band that is doomed to grow stale as time goes on. Their first substantial release, The First Four EP’s, was a breath of fresh air to the old school punk faithful; 16 songs in a little over 17 minutes, all of them featuring the same sounds that helped make the members of this supergroup famous with their previous bands. It was one of the most exciting punk releases in recent memory, not because it had new ideas (it didn’t), but because its explosiveness, concision, and enthusiasm recalled the best of the first wave of hardcore punk.
But just about all the best bands from that era have either burned out, grown stale with releases that sounded the same, or continued to be successful by moving away from their hardcore roots. Which route would Off! take? For a band made great by its ability to replicate a specific sound that was mapped out 25 years ago, there isn’t really anywhere to go.
So Off! opt not to change much on their self-titled debut album. Most of the songs are still under a minute long. They still manage to deliver their messages in that short amount of time. Off! has never been a band prone to messing around, whether we’re talking about their business practices or their music, and that’s reflected here just as well as anywhere. There’s still that sense of urgency that permeated The First Four EP’s. The lack of change isn’t a bad thing though; it just means that Off! has just about all the same qualities that made their earlier material good. If anything is different, Off! is a bit wordier than its predecessor. Plenty of one-liners by Keith Morris stand out, whether it’s “I want to club you like a baby seal,” from “King Kong Brigade,” or “Are you smoking pot or is your head up your ass?,” from “Cracked.” This is a band that clearly still has things to say, even if they are retreading ground.
If there’s one mantra that could sum up this whole album, it’s “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” There weren’t many real weaknesses for Off! to shore up and improve on with their debut album; they’re a group that has a grip on what it wants to do, is very good at doing it, and that’s that. And while a complete lack of change is a boring thing to see from most bands, the fact that Off! continues to execute on a high level and show vigor that puts younger bands to shame, stalls any kind of boredom from approaching their music. The novelty of a band in the vein of an 80’s hardcore great existing in the 2000’s may have worn off, but Off! is still here, they still have things to say, and for now, that’s enough.