OFF!

"Maybe Jesus wanted it to happen," says Keith Morris, explaining how his new band, OFF!, was formed.

He's kidding, of course. But there is something special at play in the former Circle Jerks and Black Flag frontman's latest project. Much like Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown, The First Four EPs is a rough, dirty record, sounding as if it had been recorded on cassette in a single, sweaty L.A. afternoon. This brings it a fervor that might have been lost on a more polished recording. But no amount of studio wizardry could've diluted Morris' rage. If he was pissed off in his 20s, he's seriously pissed off now. On "Upside Down," he sings "You wonder why I'm always SCREAMING!" and the effect is profound. Morris, after all, is now middle-aged and has spent three decades screaming his head off. Somehow, shit is still fucked up in the world.

Morris says he's often asked why he's still so angry. As an explanation, he tells of his apartment on one of the busiest corners in L.A. All day long, cars are constantly cutting each other off at the intersection, blaring their horns, their drivers giving one another the finger and shouting obscenities. People drive cars that cost a fortune down a street where the homeless beg for spare change. Amid all this urban chaos, a man appears on that corner every Friday to jump up and down while holding up a sign that says "Peace."

"I'm an advocate of that guy," Morris says. "I love that he's out there doing that. I wish I could be out there with him. But I'm a pessimist. I don't see the light at the end of this tunnel. My lyrics are observations. I just have to call it like I see it."

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Brian J. Barr