photo & text by nacrowe
sonically and aesthetically, the initial long-form OFF! release that is the FIRST FOUR EPs (VICE, 2010) compilation is in essence a spiritual continuation of 1980s HARDCORE as if the ensuing decades never happened. just these brief PRIMAL minute-long spasms of UNRELENTING aural INTENSITY. from the moment the BLISTERING opening track "BLACK THOUGHTS" rages out the gate, it is beyond self-evident how EXCITING and REFRESHING it is to hear a ROCK AND ROLL band recorded this RAW, consciously OUT-OF-STEP with modern industry standards for sonic fidelity. yet even with the AUSTERE RAYMOND PETTIBON artwork and STRIPPED-BACK SONIC PRESENTATION reminiscent of early BLACK FLAG, there is nothing nostalgic about this record or this band, which is made up of vocalist KEITH MORRIS (CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG), guitarist DIMITRI COATS (BURNING BRIDES), bassist/PRODUCER STEVEN SHANE MCDONALD (REDD KROSS) and drummer MARIO RUBALCABA (ROCK FROM THE CRYPT, HOT SNAKES). if anything, it feels and sounds like the way forward and an IDEAL response to what ROCK AND ROLL uniquely provides (PASSION, INTENSITY, UNBRIDLED EMOTION) in the age of UNTETHERED sonic adventurism that is MODERN HIP HOP and EDM.
FIRST FOUR EPs just feels like HARDCORE at its most FUNDAMENTAL and AMOEBIC level, constructed for maximum impact. no bullshit or decorative window-dressing, just a DIRECT shot to the head. i can point out STANDOUT tracks like "I DON'T BELONG," "DARKNESS," the aforementioned "BLACK THOUGHTS" and "UPSIDE DOWN," but the truth is that this record is meant to be experienced in its totality, as if it is one extended 20-minute rant with 18 varieties of WHITE-KNUCKLE VERBAL CONFRONTATION and UNYIELDING SONIC AGGRESSION. for one, MORRIS has never sounded more FOCUSED or VITAL and arguably COATS' decidedly UNDERCOOKED PRODUCTION CHOICES served this end spectacularly. there is an INTENT and IN-THE MOMENT ENERGY that you can only get from a demo, when songs are still in the process of congealing and emerging into shape, of becoming. this record has that feel of a PROMISING demo, which in itself is REVOLUTIONARY. no need to recreate or manufacture it again for real.
it is done, on tape, ship it out. if only all ROCK AND ROLL could be that PURE.
at the time of its 2010 release, the debut FIRST FOUR EPs compilation by OFF! is probably one of the most CONSEQUENTIAL records in at least a decade. forget HARDCORE or PUNK ROCK, it is a reminder of how ROCK AND ROLL at its core essence should be created and presented. i view it as absolutely ESSENTIAL and most definitely worth checking out.