When a band of SoCal punk veterans calls itself OFF! you know what you’re going to get, but that doesn’t mean you will be prepared for it. OFF! takes its name from a brand of insecticide, just like Black Flag. The band OFF! also routinely uses the artwork of Raymond Pettibon, brother of Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, creator of Black Flag’s famous logo and many of its record covers. Ordinarily, all this would seem like the work of a tribute act, but that’s not really what’s going on here.
OFF! was founded three years ago by Keith Morris, who cofounded Black Flag 35 years ago. Morris was the semi-legendary hardcore band’s first vocalist before going on to found another pillar of punk, Circle Jerks. For bandmates in OFF! he grabbed an all-star crew of drummer Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket from the Crypt, Hot Snakes), bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross), and guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides). All the bandmembers’ other projects have branched off from punk’s starting point in one way or another, but OFF! is practically fundamentalist in its approach to re-creating circa-1981 hardcore. Each song is a furious, breakneck-paced roar at something or other, and most last less than a minute. The band’s new self-titled record is billed as an album, but it’s over in about 16 minutes.
Of course, there are a lot of things about circa-1981 hardcore that no one can ever completely re-create, and plenty that no one would want to. Most importantly, the bandmembers don’t play like they’re a bunch of 15-year-olds. They sound like masters of the form. OFF! makes almost everything else sound hopelessly slow and tame in comparison.
OFF!: The Casbah (619-232-4355), Monday, May 14, 8:30 p.m. $15; Che Café (858-534-2311), Tuesday, May 15, 8 p.m. $12.