So, how different, really, is OFF!'s third album, Wasted Years, from their first two efforts. The answer is not a great deal. But isn't that exactly what you want? The whole point of the band was to jump thrity years in the past and, like Quantum Leap, put right where once went wrong. Don't you ever wonder what Black Flag would have sounded like if Keith Morris had never left? For one thing, you couldn't bet that Greg Ginn would have wanted to continue playing strict hardcore since he has proven at how uninterested he has been at actually doing it in the last two decades, at least. He only reformed Black Flag so that he didn't get cut out of the cash cow coming Morris and company's way. Guitarist Dmitri Coats has actually managed to out-Ginn him with three albums built on the foundation of the unparalleled “Nervous Breakdown” EP.
The first two songs on Wasted Years deliver as you'd expect and they just pummel you. “Legion of Evil” and “Hypnotized” (the album's magnum opus, at a robust two minutes and fourteen seconds) boast mini-Black Sabbath riffs to go along with the breakneck onslaught. “Over Our Heads” is a raucous and nihilistic beast of a track railing against our current government in a humorous rage. “It Didn't Matter To Me” throws in a hint of Iggy & the Stooges grime. Perhaps as a tribute to the similarly titled track from Raw Power, they took “Death Trip on the Party Train” and cut four minutes to make a lean, mean tribute. “Time's Not on Your Side” also alternates between plodding sleaze and furious down-picked power chords. This collection varies just enough so songs don't blend together but it's power leaves you panting.
The album closer and title track could be read as Morris's final kiss off to Ginn and his time in Black Flag. All the time and questions of the frontman's legacy and what could have been is all a waste of time. Keith Morris, along with OFF!, have answered those questions and laid the wreckage of the past to waste. Never mind what could have been. OFF! is what's right now.
Wasted Years is released by Vice Records and is in stores now. OFF! is coming to Chicago on May 8 at Bottom Lounge.