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Split: 7”
Two songs a piece from two of the Midwest’s finest pop punk bands. OWTH starts it off with “Die Slow,” a song that many people have said is one of the worst songs ever done by this band, but they’re all crazy. All of them. This is definitely one of my favorite Off With Their Heads tracks. They wrap up their side of the split with a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation” that isn’t too shabby at all. Dear Landlord (a newer band comprised of ex-members of Rivethead and current members of The Copyrights) plays what sounds like an even better—if you can imagine it—continuation of Rivethead without all of the forty-five second songs. Strong group vocals singing and depressing choruses are the order of the day, and you’ll find yourself singing along to sickness in no time. Both songs, “Hi Fives” and “Crashing,” are fantastic. I can’t wait until a release date for a full length is announced. –Dave Dillon –Guest Contributor (No Idea)

Split: 7"
Everything except the first and last sentences of this review is a lie. Both bands kill on Protools. Geddy Lee and Neal Pert would totally be jealous. Hear that triangle counterbalancing the cow bell? Fuckin-a, dude, it snaps! Dukes of Hillsborough: More songs about how everything’s okay, all people are essentially decent and caring, but dogs really suck. Oh, and work totally rules. Especially the great pay and the creativity and dignity it provides the working class. Off With Their Heads: More songs about if we all pray, America will win the war, Christianity is the only sensible choice, and gas prices will eventually go down if more Arabs are killed. And that Ryan’s latest book, I Love You, Me, Everybody, has become a best seller. Knew exactly what I was getting into, it was delivered, and it made me happy. –todd (ADD)

Split: 7"
Off With Their Heads: Their music sounds like an icy, gruff-mouthed, Dillinger Four-friendly odes. Lots of punch—cold-packed fists that swing with a lot of weight—and the lyrics are the exact opposite of love songs; pretty much every one’s a loathe song (self, you, other people, lady standing behind you, entire parts of the country, girlfriend from ten years ago), and it works really well. When the keyboard kicks in on the second song, I get the feeling OWTH’s capable of a lot of depth in those inky black wells they call their hearts. Practice: There’s something in the Pacific Ocean. Has to be. Because from here to Japan, a band playing a mix of the Jam, Clash, and Elvis Costello, sounds like they’re playing with newly discovered, just-cut pieces to a puzzle that snaps together crisply. Tell me, Japan: how does that happen, almost thirty years after the fact? This should be played out to dust, but it’s there, jumping around and I want to jump around with it. Nice cover of the Descendents’ “Silly Girl,” to boot. –todd (Snuffy Smiles)

Split: 7”
You’d be hard pressed to pair together two bands I love more. It’s rare to find a band that’s perfect both on days when the only thing keeping me from doing myself in is lack of motivation and some of the best days ever, let alone two. OWTH: “Closed Early” is true to what I’ve come to expect from them: pained depression played upbeat that makes me want to be in a crowded living room or basement with a bunch of friends. The second song, “Aqua Panther,” totally threw me. And then I remembered Alex Ulloa had joined OWTH on this 7”, and it made sense. This could sit up there with most Panthro UK United 13 songs, but it still (after at least fifty listens) feels strange as an OWTH song. Tiltwheel: I think the only way Tiltwheel could let me down is to stop recording. This should be listened to with good friends, good times, and cheap beer. Buy this or be stupid. –megan (Fast Crowd / Small Pool)

First EP: 7"
My first thought when I heard about this, was that it was weird that Keith Morris was fronting another band named after bug spray... Then I heard the record and promptly shut the fuck up. I will say this once and I truly believe it to my core. Keith Morris is punk rock. Period! Four blasts here that will leave you picking up the brain matter off the floor before you know what hit you. Of course it sounds like Black Flag and Circle Jerks. It would be impossible for it not to. The important thing here it that it sounds fresh. The anger is seething. He’s not some old dude trying to cash in on past notoriety. He’s got problems and he’s pissed about it. Back him up with some stellar guys from the likes of Redd Kross, Burning Brides, and Rocket From The Crypt, add some Raymond Pettibon art, and OFF! will remind you that hardcore punk is still alive and angry! I’m anxiously awaiting my “First Four EPs” box set in the mail. Stay tuned for that review. –ty (Vice)

First Four EP’s: LP
New band from Keith Morris that rose from the ashes of an aborted Circle Jerks session. Joining Keith in this controlled mayhem is Steven McDonald (ex-Red Kross) on bass, Mario Rubalcaba (ex-Hot Snakes) on drums, and Dimitri Coats (ex-Burning Brides) on guitar. Coats abandons his stoner rock licks and inhales generously from the leftover seeds of Greg Ginn. But it’s not a rehash. Live, they bring more intensity to the party. “I Don’t Belong,” “Darkness,” and “Fuck People” will blow your speakers into hyperspace like a slingshot. Believe the hype. This is real. –koepenick (Vice)

First Four EPs: 4 x 7” EP
On its surface, yeah, it’d be easy as pie to write this off as some vainglorious attempt by some punkers of yore to make a quick cash-in on their former infamy and further besmirch what smidgeon of cred they had left. Making it easier still would be the fact that the label it’s on is connected to Vice Magazine, which, if my memory of it is correct, is some hipster mag that fetishizes underground culture for folks who would’ve been beaten to a pulp if they’d ever had the temerity to step into Godzillas, Cathay de Grande, or Club Fuck. The problem with handily jumping to such conclusions, though, is the music contained on the four 7” discs up for discussion, which contain sixteen tracks of straight-for-the-jugular, no-frills, no-bullshit Southern California thug-punk. Very early Black Flag and Red Cross are the too-obvious references, considering the pedigrees of those responsible, but they are nonetheless fitting, with virtually all of the tracks here evincing the same short attention span song lengths and sparse, pointed lyrics about non-conformity, various psychoses, and the generally fucked up state of the world that continues to make the early work of the aforementioned bands so goddamned relevant. More importantly, instead of being saturated in that jaded, “We were doing this shit thirty years ago, kids” arrogance so many of their (and my) peers exude, the whole package— the music, the accompanying artwork, the live performances—feels fucking real and dripping with a seeming sincerity that is often rare in this age of punk-as-career-move. Keith and the boys have something special on their hands here and it’ll be interesting to see/hear if/how they evolve over time. –jimmy (Vice Music)

Live at Generation Records: 7”
The new super group fronted by Keith Morris (from Black Flag, Circle Jerks), with a few live songs from an in-store set in Manhattan. It’s exactly the same kind of ‘80s L.A.-style hardcore that you would expect (though a little tighter today than back then), and while it’s easy to complain, “These dudes are too old for this,” would you rather listen to them play some slow, boring indie rock in an attempt to prove how they’ve “matured”? Or keep on with the same kind of stuff they’ve been doing all along? –joe (Vice)

“Compared to What” b/w “Rotten Apple”: 7"
Keith Morris and OFF! continue to grab people by the throat and force them to take notice. Hot on the heels of the amazing First Four EP set comes this two-song blast of punk anger. I’ve heard it said that OFF! is too derivative of Black Flag, but I don’t buy it. Keith was one of the architects of that band and sound. Now he happens to have a band that seems to match his vision and aggression. If it comes off reminding me of early Black Flag, that just can’t be a bad thing. I prefer anything that OFF! has put out to anything post-Damaged, anyway. OFF! is on! –ty (Southern Lord)

Self-titled: LP
Keith Morris is still an angry, angry man. OFF! return with a new LP worth of material that is here to remind us that there was a time when hardcore wasn’t synonymous with metal riffs and basketball jerseys. This band is the perfect storm to pull this off. Every note played somehow matches the anger and urgency in Morris’s voice. Sure, there will always be detractors saying that this is a rehash of the glory days, but to that I’ve got to say that of all the guys who can claim to be there in the beginning, none of them are doing anything as good as this. Keep getting it out Keith, keep spitting your venom in the world’s face. –ty (Vice, vicerecords.com)

Live from the BBC: 10” LP
Fresh out of the oven pops another live record from this punk rock mega-outfit. Precise and to the point, this set is blistering. Featuring songs from all their studio records, it hits the mark with room to spare. I would snatch this up as soon as you can, or else risk living in “Darkness” without it. You make the call.  –koepenick (offofficial@gmail.com)

Dumb Looks Still Free: CD
A retrospective of an old Cleveland hardcore band that made the rounds during the years 1982-86. If you’re looking for comparisons, think Heart Attack covering Adrenaline OD. The later tracks are slower and poppier, but not in a painful way. Good listen overall. –jimmy (Smog Veil)

Wanted by Authority 1981-1985: CD
The Offenders are a litmus test, like Articles of Faith, N.O.T.A., Die Kreuzen, Flag of Democracy, and Really Red. If you have more than just a passing interest in original ‘80s punk and hardcore that flew under the national radar of bigger bands like MDC, Minor Threat, and the Dead Kennedys it’s difficult not to respect and really enjoy the Offenders. The proof’s in the music, pure and simple. They’re definitely hardcore, but they experiment with its edges without compromising what makes this type of music so powerful. Like most early great punk bands, the Offenders broke up early and members either went to jail, or into other bands (like DRI, Poison 13, and The Hickoids). A lot of their vinyl is now expensive, if you can even find it. Kangaroo’s done a great service of collecting most of the band’s output (two 7”s, an EP, and two LPs) and plopping it onto CD. Well worth seeking out. –todd (Kangaroo)

Anthology 1981-1985: CD
Sweden’s Just 4 Fun released this anthology of a semi random bunch of Offenders material as a tribute to the late Mikey “Offender” Donaldson, whose untimely death in 2007 shook the underground. Besides being one of the founding members of the Offenders, Donaldson also played on classic releases by D.R.I. and MDC. The only times I got to see Donaldson live were when MDC did their rare, “all original members” shows a few years back. Offenders remains a grossly underappreciated early hardcore band, one of the first to play the super fast styles that became so prominent as the 1980s scorched by. There are some really strange lead guitar riffs on some of these tracks that are as dated as the meat products in the local grocery store I declared never to return to, but, overall, these tracks hold up very well. Easily as catchy and potent as much better known bands, Offenders deserve their place in hardcore history. –Art Ettinger (Just 4 Fun, j4f.dk)

Live at CBGB’s 1985: 2 x CD
Two discs, three live sets from 1982, 1985, and 2002, and thirty-four tracks total from one of the finest hardcore bands from Texas. The sound here is clear throughout, energy and playing precision is on-point, and the songs are fuggin’ choice. If you haven’t yet procured a copy of either their Endless Struggle or We Must Rebel releases, both of which were apparently recently reissued together by Southern Lord, they’re most definitely the prime starting point. But they are not mandatory to appreciate what’s contained here, ‘cause this is some choice listening in its own right for newbie and vet alike. –Jimmy Alvarado ()

I Hate Myself/Bad Times: 7”
I have had a copy of this 7” for so long and haven’t listened to it in years. I forgot what the songs sounded like. It’s interesting and great that this 7” and the second LP Endless Struggle get re-issued. Also, a complete discography is in the works: all in one and no Ebay prices! This Austin, Texas band was a great band but was overshadowed by bands like the Dicks, Big Boys, NOTA, Stains (MDC), and DRI. But they were an important band of the time period. This 7” was originally released in 1984 on Rabid Cat Records. Both tracks on this reminded me of why I loved this band so much. It’s potent and angry hardcore that still stands the test of time. I would compare them to BGK, even though I remember reading they were considered too American for the Europeans. Pressing comparison time: cover art has been completely changed so you can tell the difference from the two pressings. The new pressing is made with a heavier gram vinyl and the grooves are cut wider. With modern mastering, this version actually sounds better and louder on the new release. I can’t wait for the discography CD! –don (Kangaroo)

Endless Struggle: LP
This is a re-issue of The Offenders’ second album. It originally came out in 1985 and it sounds like it. I mean that in all the best ways. The Offenders have that unbridled anger and frustration that made ‘80s hardcore great. The guitar and bass on this album are incredible, seemingly all over the place but the songs sound tight as hell. If you don’t have this album, but you’re a fan of bands like N.O.T.A., Negative Approach, and Poison Idea, pick up this re-issue before they’re all sold out and you’re back to hunting on eBay. –sean (Kangaroo)

Dead Lands: CD
Well, that’s not what I was expecting. In my defense, I don’t think I was out of line to expect something a little more political and hardcore. First of all, the name Officer Down conjures up images of cops getting overthrown by the people (to me anyway), and, secondly, the cover art features a zombie with a flip brim thrash hat and a shotgun in his mouth. Lots of blood splatter. None of which instantly makes me think of mid- to late-’90s Southern California punk à la Strung Out or Death By Stereo. They are very proficient at what they do; I was just thrown for a loop. If you like the bands I mentioned, or that style, you’d definitely be stoked on these guys.  –ty (TNS)

Towards Cuckooland: CD
Some pop for your punk. U.K. band Officer Gotcha lists the Buzzocks, Ramones, Mr. T Experience, and Jawbreaker as influences—just to name a few—and this couldn’t be more clear as day. Think Propagandhi with brattier, nasally Brit vocals. Thirteen songs are packed onto this self-released CD. Look, it’s not exactly cutting edge stuff, but if straight-up pop punk songs with rock’n’roll guitar is your tip, you’ll probably dig Officer Gotcha.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released)

Split the Difference: CD
Detroit’s The Offramps play rock’n’roll that draws influences from The Clash, the country side of The Replacements, and various classic power pop bands. That list of influences may lead one to expect more of the same, but Split the Difference avoids all of the clichés that come with many of the bands that boast Replacements and power pop influences. They wear their influences on their sleeves, but still keep it original and avoid all of the cheesy hazards a band like this can run into. This will more than likely be getting some repeat listens from me.  –Dave Dillon (Deluxe)

Pride and Progress/Goin’ for Broke: CD
The songs kept starting off promising in their melodic hardcore way. I kept hoping for some Civ, but what I kept getting was Set Your Goals. This just has too much of that oddly processed mall-core sound for my tastes. –Adrian Salas (Barrett, barrettrecords@gmail.com)

Los Angeles E.P.: CD-R
Three songs in seven minutes. Not necessarily a world’s record in shortest releases, but pretty darn short nonetheless. It’s a good thing my CD player has a repeat function or I might have missed how awesome these guys are. In fact, maybe a year ago, there was a lot of conversation here in Los Angeles concerning what the city’s official song should be. Where was The Offset’s “Los Angeles” in this dialog? Friends, I am here to right the wrong. Fuck Randy Newman, give us The Offsets! For the record, the other two tracks on this CD-R are just as tasty, all in a snotty, garage-y, pop punk kinda way.  –Garrett Barnwell (self-released, theoffsetsla@gmail.com)

Bastards of Death: CD
“Brain driller, erectile thriller, gurgling screams, insane killer.” Supposedly, Ogre is one of the first Irish death metal bands. I can’t think of any other Irish death metal bands, but I’m no expert on the genre. Nonetheless, they deliver a performance that fulfills all the prerequisites, from the gore-filled lyrics about brain drillers, leathery wombs and rotting corpses, to the singer’s guttural throat-barfs. There’s no tomfoolery here, no nutty drum triggers or elaborate guitar layers, nothing that could be described as technical. It’s just pure, blood-slathered, old school death metal just like your parents used to love.  –mp (ogre.ie)

Self-titled: CD
Bit of an odd name for a band that sounds like the Pixies on a ‘60s garage band bender, or vice versa, but they do what they do well. –jimmy (Ogre Smash Death Boom, myspace.com/ogresmashdeathboom)

Warts and All: CD
This is perhaps the most stoner rock-looking and -sounding record of all time. There is no way a person could look at or hear this band and have any doubt about what they were getting. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover and be right. Heavy riffs and killer guitar tone, huge drums, great rock vocals—this is some great stoner rock. Riff rock. Desert rock. Whatever term you wanna use, Ogressa does it just right. Scott Reeder from Kyuss even turns up on a few tunes. This is just great and well done for anyone with a massive amount of Man’s Ruin Records. –frame (Dalis Llama, dalisllamarecords.com)

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