As the leader of Circle Jerks—not to mention the original frontman of Black Flag—Keith Morris packs a nasal, acidic screech that’s become a touchstone of West Coast punk. Sadly, that iconic voice has lately been reduced to delivering commentary in hardcore documentaries. OFF!, Morris’ new outfit, has no right being more than a nostalgic echo of his past glory. Instead, it’s a deafening, pummeling jumpstart. With songs barely breaking the one-minute mark—a severity Morris hasn’t shown since Circle Jerks’ 1980 debut, Group Sex—OFF!’s First Four EPs is a 16-song conniption that proves Morris can be as adenoidal and adrenalized as ever, and at times even more so. Aided by Burning Brides’ Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross’ Steven McDonald, and Rocket From The Crypt’s Mario Rubalcaba, Morris turns tracks like “Black Thoughts” and “Panic Attack” into clipped-riff sucker-punches full of pain, laughs, anger, discontent, and even ruthless introspection. The band itself is corrosively catchy; Coats fully gets the savage calculus of the classic hardcore anthem, and McDonald and Rubalcaba stick subliminal finesse into their nerve-pinching, whiplash breakdowns. As feral as Morris remains, his trademark pipes—not to mention his angst-scarred, eternally bratty lyrics—have gathered a gnarly coat of rust and crust over the decades. But it only makes First Four EPs sound less like a comeback and more like survival of the fittest.
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