If the lyrics on Home, the latest release from Minneapolis, Minn.'s Off With Their Heads, are to be taken at face value, singer/guitarist Ryan Young is a miserable guy. Leading off the album with the line, "There are no words to describe the awful feeling I have inside," Young spends the next half hour or so flogging himself for his failures and allowing his insecurities to eat him alive.
With an ever-revolving band of musicians, Young is the only constant member of OWTH, essentially making this a solo project and positioning him to be the Morrissey of mid-tempo punk rock. Young uses his position as bandleader to wallow in his pain, and from another mouth the songs would come off as whiny and overindulgent. However, Young's gruff delivery makes lines like, "This is why I will always be alone," and "The road that brought us together is taking me away from you," seem downright painful.
Music-wise, Home sounds like the Ramones if they were fronted by Cookie Monster, but the album is more polished than anything OWTH has ever made, which may turn off fans of their usual manic, rough-around-the-edges style. Instead of neutering the band, producer Bill Stevenson has slowed down the tempos a bit and brought out OWTH's experimental side.
It's not all failed relationships and self-loathing on Home, however, and Off With Their Heads proves they still have the piss-and-vinegar punk urgency that has made them one of the best bands in the genre today.
On "Focus On Your Own Family" and "Altar Boy," the band indulges in the old punk pastime of mocking religion. More than anything else, "Focus On Your Own Family" is rallying call to young gays who have been discriminated against by the evangelical right, while "Altar Boy" uses Young's own experiences with the Catholic Church as a launch pad to attack its hypocrisies.
With their second Epitaph Records release, Off With Their Heads have finally succeeded in not making the same record over and over. While the lyrical themes of failure and heartbreak are still there, the band has branched out while remaining consistent, proving that they're more than a one-trick pony and do more with three chords than most bands do with eight.