Friday Night: OFF! At Warehouse Live
Some bands drag on for years, featuring only one original member, desperate to remain potent and pitched forward. Making potboiler punk, they endure the glare of the social-media era and endless new generations of punk wannabes.
Keith Morris doesn't opt for that route. He's left the Circle Jerks behind him, bickering and bellowing, and forged OFF!, which makes trademarked manic music with stainless-steel nerves. OFF! do not wallow in the humor and politics of the Circle Jerks, but their barrage feels equally taut and titanic, brooding and relentless, like a fresh stab at all things lame.
Having been walloped by Greg Ginn's mammoth acid-punk-jazz distortion in 1986, during the closing rounds of Black Flag's last tour, Aftermath can honestly describe OFF! as exhilarating Black Flag fellow travelers. Notable bands have tried to mimic and mine that territory, like Bl'ast and Annihilation Time, but OFF! seals the deal. They shake off boredom, dig deep in the trenches of old-school hardcore, and deliver with persistence and perseverance.
OFF! reeks of a California vibe, partially because the state's culture and music serves as its umbilical chord. The members have sprouted from a genre that gestated 30 years ago in Hermosa and Redondo Beach, explored and documented in The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization. As such, the band is a scruffy all-star affair culled from Hot Snakes, Red Kross and Burning Brides.
Inspired by seeing Iggy & the Stooges in the early 1970s and soaking up Los Angeles' first wave of punk, Keith Morris became the first singer for Black Flag. Though he exited the tribal group by 1979, fans still flock to their early singles and his wise-ass snarl.
Similar to that era, OFF! spirals onstage quickly into a sister vein of beach-punk ferocity, conducting their bombast with eerie powerhouse crunch and physical swagger, breaking only for extended monologues by Morris, who struts the stage like a well-meaning counselor and history teacher.
On record, the sounds emitted by OFF! are frothed with requisite vitriol and vehemence, aptly dubbed by the band as the "dark party" aura, replete with ominous overtones, exemplified by the night's starters, "Black Thoughts" and "Darkness." Unmasked and full frontal, the band, armed with street-wise barbs and sardonic wit, effortlessly delivered rough-hewn, recoiling tunes, like the 9/11-themed "Poison City."
Keith Morris may be in his fifties, but his heart and voice shoot in full-throttle mode. He abides by no fools, he sticks to his sonic guns, he offers no excuses, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he stakes new ground. He is not a human jukebox, he is a voice of reason and self-learning, of pent-up psychosis and derangement, all at the same time.