Ryan Young has done a lot of growing up over the years. The one-time poster child for gruff-punk depression has evolved in his time with Off With Their Heads, becoming a pod caster, label owner, merch boss, and all-around solid dude. His band’s newest release, Be Good, is a reflection of this growth, and while I wouldn’t exactly call its eleven tracks the soundtrack to a feel-good summer, it’s a step in a more mature and, dare I say, optimistic direction.
Self-recorded partly at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota—the legendary studio where Nirvana recorded In Utero—Be Good is Off With Their Heads going for something more emotionally substantial. The tempos are slower, trading in the relentless, Dillinger Four-style thrashing of distorted chords for a deeper, more introspective vibe.
The recording itself is a bit rough around the edges, lending the songs a raggedness that keeps the songs from drifting toward excess. New drummer Kyle Manning supplies perhaps the best drumming performance in the band’s history, keeping the slower beats lively and powerful.
From track one it’s obvious that Off With Their Heads aim for something a little higher with Be Good. The band has made strides in elevating its sound, and everything is bigger, more emotional, more sophisticated. It largely works, though the songs stick perhaps too closely to a mid-tempo pace, at the expense of the album’s dynamics. The latter half of the album exhibits a bit more energy, as well as some of the best songs on the album, including “Trash It” and “Let It All”.
By broadening the scope of their sound, Off With Their Heads have delivered one of the most unique albums of their discography. Be Good signifies a turning point for the band, and a refreshing evolution of their attitude.