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CD Review: Off!

Vice; Release date: May 8, 2012

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Keith Morris hasn't aged a day. Whether that's a compliment or not depends almost entirely on the level of fundamentalism one ascribes to his or her taste in retro-hardcore. (Most critics seem, strangely, to be a gang of Jerry Falwells to hardcore's short-fast doctrine.) Off!, the ostensible supergroup helmed by the one-time Black Flag and Circle Jerks frontman, along with Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven McDonald of Redd Kross and drummer Mario Rubalcaba of Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt, kicked off its party-like-it's-'81 punk with 2010's First Four EPs. The band's first proper full-length follows suit.

For veteran players with obvious chops, hewing so closely to the no-frills boilerplate is a bit limiting. And Morris doesn't give his band much room to build off the foundation he laid with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks more than 30 years ago. Coats' production and guitar tone are Nervous Breakdown reenactment to the nth degree. Morris still barks a litany of accusations at an array of straw men (which is to say at anyone and everyone), but his most pointed vitriol is aimed at his old bandmates. His departure from Black Flag in 1979 was less than amicable, and he's still carrying the grudge. "You bet I've got something against you, too!" he rails on "I Got News For You," referencing Black Flag's Jealous Again. "Cracked," apparently about a failed Black Flag reunion tour finds Morris yelling "Hardcore karaoke/ retirement home" without a whiff of irony.

Still, if nostalgia's your thing, few hit the mark as squarely as Off!. The hardcore preservation society provides a blunt reminder of how vital first-generation hardcore was — and is.

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