Published Apr 04, 2014Even for OFF!, a band gleefully bobbing within its sardonic sludge of outspoken lyrics, barking vocals and a raucous musical flurry, Wasted Years is bleak and foreboding. Singer Keith Morris has led a tumultuous public life in recent years, taking a break from the efficient and seemingly magnanimous OFF! to found the band FLAG with other disgruntled former members of hardcore heroes Black Flag. The venture conjured a whole lot of spite when Black Flag founder Greg Ginn set legal proceedings in motion against FLAG, essentially spraying fuel over the already perpetually pissed off Morris.
As such, Wasted Years has these extra layers of pointed rage, much of it directed at the concept of nationhood and general society's inept complacency, but it also feels more personal. The airtight band remains a pummeling force, but there are more dynamic shifts and transitional breakdowns here that disperse the face-punching rock assault. Such instances are not Sabbath-y per se, but there's definitely more space in the music, and these spaces are dark voids.
Wasted Years contains many allusions to American symbols and sayings: "the land of the free," a song called "Red, White and Black," references to "a legion of evil," "conscientious objectors," "seeds of democracy" and how "you can't argue with the troops." It would all add up to reactionary leftist 'Political Punk Rock 101' if Morris didn't have the sharp swagger of a sage observational comic. "You fuck with me, I'll fuck with you!" he screams on "Time's Not On Your Side," as if mortality is suddenly best buds with a 58 year-old former coke addict who went into a diabetic coma last year.
Life itself is both Morris's precious power source and the bane of his existence; he internalizes the world around him, processes its negativity, and spits it back out as one sharp argument after another. Righteous indignation has long fuelled OFF!, but Wasted Years is the band at their darkest and most venomous. (Vice)