After an eight year drought, punk supergroup OFF! has returned with their new album, Free LSD, released on Sept. 30 from Fat Possum Records. Helmed by former Circle Jerks and Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats have recruited jazz drummer Justin Brown as well as …And You Will Know Us by The Trail of Dead bassist Autry Fullbright II for the latest incarnation of OFF!
OFF! has been diligently working on Free LSD and an accompanying feature film of the same name. The film is written and directed by Coats, and is a mishmosh of genres; sci-fi, horror, comedy. Clips from the film are used as music videos, and include a wide array of special guest punk heroes, including David Yow of the Jesus Lizard, DH Peligro of the Dead Kennedys, Germs’ Don Bolles, AFI’s Davey Havok, and more.
From the first track, “Slice up the Pie,” it is evident OFF! has been exploring genre ideas outside the realm of punk. A warbling, laserlike noise that increases in volume before sludgy bass and speedy guitar a la Dr. Know ring out. Keith’s voice has not aged one bit. The song ends with a return to the laser before seamlessly transitioning into “Time Will Come.” Brown’s drums are breakneck and groove-laden. And Autry’s bass is prominent.
Two of the singles teasing this record are consecutive. “War Above Los Angeles” feels like a stoner metal song, something like Mastodon would compose. In this song, Keith sings about aliens, and they’ve been watching Earth and the hour of reckoning is here. “Kill to Be Heard” has a classic hardcore riff and rapid drums. In the music video for it, Davey Havoc hosts a drum off before aliens come and ruin it. Keith seeks revenge on the aliens by taking a paring knife and stabbing one, complete with a bloodthirsty grin.
Scattered in between songs are brief interludes, titled “F,” “L,” “S,” and “D,” where that jazz influence returns. These four interludes are soundscapes of sonic exploration; drum solos, guitar meandering, saxophone solos in the abstract school of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
It boggles my mind how stellar Keith’s voice is. At 67 years old, he can still shout and scream better than people a third his age, like on “Invisible Empire” and “Circuitry’s God.” One of his most impressive screams comes in the song “Muddy the Waters,” where the song kicks off with that title and the force behind it is palpable.
Plenty of artists’ influence can be felt within these 20 tracks. “Ignored” sounds like a Germs track, “Black Widow” reminds us of Kyuss and High on Fire, “L” is an homage to The Beatles’ Revolver, mainly “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Another interesting element is OFF!’s decision for every song to segue into the one after it. It feels almost like a symphony with different movements. A concept album with prog elements, from a punk band? Sign us up.
This new lineup of OFF! delivers one hell of a comeback album. It’s sonically nuanced, compositionally adventurous, and downright exciting.