Album Reviews

OFF!: Free LSD

With a new line-up, the Los Angeles supergroup deliver an unbridled assault.

It’s been eight years since we last heard from Los Angeles’ OFF! The project started by Circle Jerks/ Black Flag’s Keith Morris and Burning BridesDimitri Coats.

Joined by Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald, and Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba, with Morris’ righteous slogans hitting like a screaming shit storm, alongside Coats’ rambling noise assault, OFF! was always a match made in heaven (or indeed hell). From their 2010 compilation First Four EPs through to 2014’s Wasted Years, OFF! have always been as thrilling as what their make-up on paper suggested.

With a line-up change which sees McDonald and Rubalcaba replaced by Justin Brown (Thundercat, Herbie Hancock) and Autry Fulbright II (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead), OFF! don’t just shake off the rust from their dormant years; they completely blow us into a different orbit with their latest record, Free LSD.  

Despite Morris’ righteous sermons not limited to calling out capitalist greed, obfuscation and lies from the powers that be (Slice Up the Pie, Ignored), this is the kind of record one needs in their darkest days. Brimming with a raw defiance that has Morris chewing up the world’s injustices and spitting them out, through a raging tsunami-like sound via Coats’ droning buzz-saw guitars and Brown’s hell-raising blast beats, Free LSD is one of those vital recordings that makes you feel that life is worth living.

Tension Span: The Future Died Yesterday

While the introduction of heftier bass weight and the sprinkling of cosmic psychadelia is evident throughout Free LSD, it’s been a little overstated. OFF!’s shift in sound is only slight, but that’s all that is required to produce defining results. And that they do, with the kind rip-roaring sludge punk that few others have matched.

Free LSD is rampantly strident. It’s also lightning-fast (Muddy the Waters). Then there are songs with complete split-personalities. Album highlights, War Above Los Angeles, Kill to Be Heard and the penultimate title track all shift dramatically in pace, spite and vigour. It’s music that knocks you clean off the perch.

OFF! - Free LSD

Fulbright II’s inclusion is perhaps the most telling, and as far as Free LSD is concerned, he is most certainly the secret weapon that glistens in amongst OFF!’s fine array of arsenal.

Bringing the kind of proggy grooves he laid down during his time in …Trail of Dead, his inclusion has reinvigorated OFF! as a new dose of sci-fi drama drifts through these songs like a malignant spirit. Invisible Empire, Ignored and Worst Is Yet To Come contain remnants that have been scraped off the floor from a …Trail of Dead rehearsal and re-built in fascinating new ways.

Swami John Reis: Ride the Wild Night

With the hammer-like grooves on Circuitry’s God, OFF! roar back into the new music landscape and apply the blowtorch to those around them. So too with Murder Corporation. Morris’ hasn’t had the bit between his teeth like this in years, spewing utter rage. With Suck the Bones Dry and Smoking Gun (“Empty flesh/Whatever moves” and “Country in chaos”), Morris dispenses his slogans with sharp brevity; the kind that don’t require a PhD in philosophy or riddles in a bid to outsmart some bloke on Twitter.

All told, Free LSD doesn’t possess the kind of raw hysteria that stirs up the circle pit. This is punk for solitude and, despite its anthemic qualities, Free LSD’s impact is better in isolation than in amongst the sweaty bodies at the front of the barrier. In a way, it’s psychadelic in attitude, not sound.

With Brown’s howling blast beats and Fulbright II’s tearing grooves, the pair add stirring new dimensions to OFF! and with Free LSD, it’s no surprise they’ve delivered one of the best punk record in 2022. The only surprise is that there aren’t more people talking about it.

Free LSD is out now via Fat Possum Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

4 replies on “OFF!: Free LSD”

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