I’ll get to the point and talk about these Off With Their Heads songs I’ve been banging on about.
The first track, “I Am You,” charges out of the speakers in a steady barrage. The manifesto for the rest of the album is set out in the first lines, “If you really want to hear…” as if said as a warning, before it all comes pouring out. He’s not happy, not very happy at all. And neither are we apparently, we all loathe ourselves whether we know it or not, a sentiment I can partly agree with.
Forget the lyrics for a second though, and you’ve got the perfect song for dancing around with a big ugly grin on your face, your arm ’round your mate, singing along, spilling beer all over yourself, getting concerned looks from your girlfriend who’s now standing in the corner.
Next up, “Wrong,” with it’s Clash-like simple rocking chord progressions, chugs along, carrying with it a huge anthemic chorus. The downbeat, melancholy lyrics here, such as, “Sit back and let me tell you about the sadness … trying to destroy me,” couldn’t contrast the bounce and energy of the music more, yet it works surprisingly well.
“1612 Havenhurst” doesn’t fanny around, one short phrase and then it’s off at breakneck speed. The song is a beast, one of my favourites, and the last part is a real sing-along gem. Then again, most of the album is prime sing-along stuff.
“Go On Git Now” slows things down for that all important breather 1/3 of the way through an album. A real anthem, this would be perfect towards the end of a raucous set, where pace is no longer an issue, and the power and drive in the song controls everything. The closing part of this song I feel for the drum kit as it receives a really solid beating. The lyrics here hit a bit deeper however: “I don’t even feel like it’s worth it to start over again.” This declaration of resigned reflection is surprisingly poignant.
Track five, “Until The Day” is, again, a huge anthem of a song. (How many times can I say “anthem” in one review?) It’s a stand out track in an album of quality songs. The lead guitar in the opening makes me think of early Pulley (which it really sounds nothing like) and early Tony Hawk games. Perhaps here is an insight into my boringly mis-spent youth.
The fucking massive chorus is put off so that when it finally hits, it hits hard and direct. The vocal melody in this chorus has a simplistic quality that latches on to your brain like a leech in the jungle, dropping off after staying far too long, leaving a purple, bloody patch. But what sticks out here from the lyrics is the small element of positivity! “All of a sudden I can finally see, what’s been right in front of me, and I’m gonna do something about it!” Even if that something is to make someone else feel very miserable.
“Keep Falling Down” continues the lyrical themes of despair and frustration, but also brings in acceptance, and it makes me really want to give this guy a hug. Don’t despair mate! You write some cracking songs! The almost sombre vocals in the chorus reminds me of “To The Sea” by American Steel in its integration of wistful melancholy into pacey, aggressive music.
“Terrorist Attack” is the best song I’ve ever heard that only uses one chord. A bass and drums introduction builds the foundations for the big fuck-off steamroller that’s gathering steam and heading right for us. “Don’t fucking believe everything that you read, don’t trust everything that you see on TV. Subscriptions and ratings are all that they need.”
It’s a break from the misery and self-directed fury of the first half of the album, short and very sharp. I particularly like the guttural vocal harmonising of the low notes.
“Self Checkout” reminds me in many ways of Goddamnit-era Alkaline Trio. It’s the punk side of pop-punk, with the lyrical direction of the first half of the song dealing with themes of madness, self-loathing and generally being a bit fucked up. The tenderness of lines such as, “Did you get a chance to read the letter I sent to you? Or did you throw it away cause of everything I put you through,” jump out and are really quite affecting. This I actually find to be a really sad and stirring song. Into the second half of the song some purpose is found, and the repeated phrase of “It was all just a dream, and it’s time to come clean, and it’s time to move on, no matter how hard it seems” really hits home in a goosebumps and spine tingles way that brings to mind the power held in so many Bouncing Souls songs. A definite album highlight.
“Fuck This I’m Out” is another slightly slower-paced number that delivers a sentiment, which I’m sure will strike a chord with many, of being truly fed up with the place you’re in and desperate to leave it all behind and make a fresh start. This can be taken geographically and metaphorically, and again displays a dark shadow in Ryan’s life. “I might as well just kill myself tonight, I don’t want to, but I don’t see any other way” looks hollow on the page, but in song sounds far too believable. Someone give this guy a hug right now. There is also a nifty guitar solo, which is commendable for being totally suitable for the power and slow-burn of the song and doesn’t attempt to show off any fingertip-singeing styles.
Track 10, “For The Four,” while again dealing with frustration and despair, shows a positiveness that shines out above everything else on this album, offering up an alternative existence, a simpler life for a wife and kids in a safe neighbourhood. This song also contains my two favourite lines from the whole album: “I’m not tired, I’m exhausted,” and, “I’m not walking through hospital doors today!” And the last chorus is a clinic on how to make an absolutely fucking huge and completely uncompromising sound. This song is like a big bastard bus that is coming towards you as you’re crossing the road, and it has no intention of stopping, it will just plough you down, because it is going somewhere regardless.
All I can say about “Ten Years Trouble,” is that I think it is an awesome song, but dancing and singing along to it feels so very wrong. It is an intimate self-examination set to powerful effect against the vibrant energy of the song. The lyrics here drop any tough-guy pretensions that creep into the corners of this album and lay the issues out painfully bare for examination.
And then we come to “I Hope You Know.” At first I thought the military/marching band drum introduction was a little cliche, but once I understood the album that precedes it, I found it worked perfectly. The introduction builds steadily, with more self reflection and testament, when suddenly (and cleverly) with the line “I’m sorry I wasn’t there, from the bottom of my heart,” the song is launched into full throttle. Demons are confronted, the past is being sorted. It is a perfect finale to a near perfect punk album.
And then the album title makes sense. From The Bottom, from the bottom of my heart, and working through problems from the bottom up, a journey this album takes, starting off with themes of hopelessness and despair, gradually working towards acceptance and confrontation.
All in all, this is a painfully honest and open album, with, in fine punker fashion, a musical accompaniment fitting to charge around a room and drink lots of beer to.
- Ben Gosling -