Stuck recently on my excessive SST collection, particularly the works of Black Flag, and celebrating the addition of the Circle Jerks' long out-of-print VI CD to my library to replace my original cassette after years of scouring secondhand bins, it was only a natural progression to focus this week on Keith Morris' Off!.
I don't know the story behind the band's formation but guess it's more than a coincidence that, like another band on Morris' resume, they share a name with an insect repellent. Add in artwork by the incomparable Raymond Pettibon and Off! is absolutely irresistible.
The vinyl, from Vice Records, is sturdy, simple stuff. Entirely black-and-white, the aesthetic is immediately appealing. Fans of Pettibon's art will undoubtedly devour these and hardcore punk fans should likewise be satisfied by short, sharp - and smart - bursts of music clocking in in single-minute increments. I've never seen any of the EPs on the First Four EPs box available individually and am not certain if they all saw separate release. That said, I wouldn't want them any other way. The box itself is beautiful, housing each jacketed 7" and a nice booklet with Pettibon liner notes, selected lyrics and several photographs. The self-titled 12", with sixteen tracks, contains the same amount of music as the EP set and anyone who has worked to make records will appreciate the cost associated with pressing and packaging four different records as opposed to a single 12". It's really fun as a collector to have this variety of sizes and helps each little EP to stand alone as its own statement (though, admittedly, I always simply play them back-to-back).
The 12" record comes with a simple two-sided lyric sheet and each of the vinyl incarnations share similar label design with a stylized "O" circling the center hole and the 7" records alternating between inverse combinations of black and white between the A and B sides. The 12" also features "Satan Did Not Appear" etched into the A-side run-off matrix, reprising Pettibon's text from the album's cover art.
Seemingly basic black-and-white offerings, Off!'s records are rich in detail and high in quality. The vinyl itself is clean, the sound crisp and packaging materials a notch above the standard (and admittedly flimsy) SST fare that sent me here in the first place. Off!'s online store sells First Four EPs for $20 and the self-titled 12" for $15. That's about a buck per song. Add in that you get download cards with both packages and Off! on vinyl is a no-brainer over iTunes. Grab 'em while you still can.