Off! is a band centered on the idea of brevity. Its discography—four world-beating EPs and one nearly as brilliant album—clocks in at a scant total of 33 minutes, with the average song running about 60 seconds—“King Kong Brigade,” which at 1:37 is their longest song, is as close to a ballad as these guys will ever get. When guitarist Dimitri Coats deviates from riffing to throw in an abrasive solo, the entire affair might last two bars. The rhythm section of drummer Mario Rubalcaba and bassist Steven McDonald holds on for dear life as lead singer Keith Morris screams his ass off.
A founding member of both Black Flag and Circle Jerks, Morris is a man who perhaps more than anyone else understands the nuances of truly good punk, and it’s his presence that looms largest over Off!’s output. Live, he paces the stage like a panther just released from its cage, standing his ground as he unleashes torrents of vitriol against all things unpunk. (Things that are unpunk: the government, hypocrites, authority, happiness.)
If Off! is all about finding the punkness in unloading one’s issues as quickly as possible, then Cerebral Ballzy is its inverse. The Brooklyn band’s songs are almost entirely about pizza and beer and how jobs suck, communicating through their snotty gestalt a particularly 21st-century strain of malaise: How do you get mad about nothing and make it seem like everything? Singer Honor Titus takes a page from Morris’s book: scream.—Drew Millard