Wasted Years Review

There are just certain people who seem to be, for better or worse, trapped in time, incapable of acknowledging that anything around them has changed and oblivious to anything resembling self-awareness.

It can be one of those “for worse” cases when dealing with the guy who can’t mentally move past being the starting quarterback for some lousy high school football team 20 years ago.

But if one of the elder statesmen of hardcore punk—Keith Morris (the original frontman for Black Flag who has to still be sore that people remember Henry Rollins long before they remember him)—wants to wander around in an adrenaline-soaked haze, playing the same kind of aggressive trashy punk rock he use to like the late 80s in LA never stopped, then no one should stop him.

Since forming the supergroup OFF! with Burning Brides’ Dimitri Coats on guitar, Red Kross’s Steven Shane Mcdonald on bass and Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba, Morris seems quite content with pumping out the sonic equivalent of an 80s hardcore-punk time capsule. And “Wasted Years” shows no signs of stopping that trend.

Cover art for 'Wasted Years'
Cover art for ‘Wasted Years’

With OFF!’s latest full-length project, you get back a lot of what you got on their first quartet of EP’s. Innovation need not apply. Keith Morris does what he does best with the lineup of OFF! in sneering and snaking out his way through 24 minutes of punch-throwing, face-breaking, hardcore punk at it’s finest.

So you can’t simply accuse OFF! of merely stealing from the past to make a record, as most of these guys were there making this music when it was new. They can, however, be accused for living in it.

Instrumentally speaking, the lads of OFF! gel well together. Coats alternates between a churning, 3-chord surf attack that occasionally rockets up to do some crazy things (“It Didn’t Matter To Me” and “Death Trip On A Party Train” have an almost grunge-squelch to them), and Rubalcaba and Mcdonald hold the rhythm section down well enough.

But if you’re looking for anything more than a sneering, booze-soaked, punk rock assault, you will be left looking in vain.

Songs filter in and out, lingering just long enough to give you an impression before fizzling out. Some make bad impressions like the clunky, awkward-sounding “Legion Of Evil.” Others leave a decidedly “did they just use the same intro twice?” impression (“I Won’t Be A Casualty” and “Meet Your God”). Standout tracks do manage to nose their way out, though, with the crowd-pleaser, chorus-powered “It Didn’t Matter To Me” and the snarling hook “Exorcised.”

Criticizing a hardcore punk album for sounding repetitive feels like criticizing a five-year old kid for being short. Keith Morris isn’t changing his wheel anytime soon, and “Wasted Years” proves he still knows how to build that same oddly specific wheel and make it an enjoyable experience.


Verdict: You can’t say former Black Flag singer Keith Morris is stealing from the past; he’s merely living in it


Vice (April 8th 2014)


Grade: B