What we deem as ‘supergroups’ are actually much more common than you’d expect. But what isn’t common is a long-running supergroup whose energy doesn’t dissipate and who doesn’t settle for the one-off album. Southern California’s OFF! have returned with their latest album after 2014s Wasted Years.
Formed by the legendary Circle Jerks vocalist and Black Flag alumni Keith Morris and Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats, the band now adds the talents of bassist Autry Fulbright II (…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead) and Justin Brown of Thundercat fame on drums. Free LSD is a fearsome collection of incendiary classic SoCal hardcore. For fans of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Blast or the more recent Sun and Sail Club, this is exactly the fix you need.
Things kick off with Slice Up The Pie. Like the majority of tracks on the album, it only clocks at just over two minutes, being true to the band’s roots. Coats profoundly angry guitar playing meshes with Morris’ vocals (‘By Any Means Necessary!!!’) like a match and gasoline, while Brown and Fulbright carry the energy from start to finish. Time Will Come continues the metallic punk perfection, with staccato riffing accompanying daresay sci-fi lyrics about human extinction and a new race.
Invisible Empire is a personal favorite of mine, recalling some of Burning Bride’s early work with an absolutely memorable guitar melody. At just over a minute long, Black Widow Group opts for a more mid-tempo grind at first before launching back into the moshpit with wanton abandon. There are a number of mini-tracks with single letter titles like F and L which serve as segues between songs, often with static-laced noise and strange free jazz background noises. But other than that, there isn’t much differentiation or variety on this album, and that is 100% acceptable. OFF! knows exactly what they are and what they want to be.
There are no bells or whistles with Free LSD. It is twenty tracks of deranged goodness that serve as a love letter to Southern California’s golden era of punk…
I’m continuously impressed with Morris. At age 67, he sounds every bit as energetic and pulsing with vigor as he did in the 1980s, with his lyrics ranging from humorous to darkly socio-political. In an era when ‘old dinosaurs’ in rock, punk and metal are sometimes sneered upon by completely tone-deaf observers, Morris nicely shuts them up. In Coats, he has a worthy collaborator with an endless supply of caustic punk fretwork.
Perhaps my favorite riff is the opening of Suck The Bones Dry, but there are simply too many to count. A complaint I do have is the mix in regard to the rhythm section, specifically Justin Brown’s Chuck Biscuits-like drumming feeling a bit subdued in the overall production. But it’s only a slight blemish on an immensely satisfying record.
There are no bells or whistles with Free LSD. It is twenty tracks of deranged goodness that serve as a love letter to Southern California’s golden era of punk. And for younger fans of metal and stoner rock, it might be a good introduction on how important hardcore punk was to the development of those genres. Just watch out for those flying elbows and greasy Chuck Taylor shoes in the moshpit.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh