I got home last night at five—less than 48 hours after leaving for New York—and was stunned to see the detritus of my trip planning scattered around the office: book boxes open, drawers, spindles of CDs yet to be burned. It wasn’t the mess that surprised me as much as what comprised it: again, less than two days before I had been prepping for my trip by packing my courier bag full of stuff. And I was back to see the remnants of my post-work haste scattered about as I had left them.
It seemed much longer than two days was the thing.
Sure, I had only spent two nights away, on a couch in a Greenpoint loft which offered an amazing view of the city and a cache of fanzines, of both the paper and VHS varieties. But the relatively glacial pace of the pastoral blurs the time and the perception of it. In the two days, the frantic race to see everyone and do everything taxed me with its pace. Okay: gotta hit all these spots, visit x number of people—and not just hey how’s it going, but like spend quality time—and get from place to place with a minimum of fuss and /or getting lost. Which I feel, largely, was a success, even though a) I completely understand why everyone in the city had an iPhone now—to maximize effectiveness / minimize inefficiency, because efficiency and effectiveness are the dual nature of the beast, even if there’s no art or project of any kind at stake, no career-minded networking, active or passive, and b) the perpetual juggling of priorities and engagements is enormously taxing and takes up a great deal of energy and headspace, despite the fact that everyone around shrugged when I mentioned it and was like “well, that’s how it is.” There was an innate sense of pace, of timing, from my friends in town: a thorough investment with an immediacy dictated by the demands of the calendar: we’ve got two hours, so step on the goddamn gas, man, and fast! There’s ground to be covered before the next engagement!
It’s an immediacy I appreciate, but one that takes a bit of time getting used to.
Which is why I’ve been listening to Off! since my return home.
Scene fans rejoiced when the band started playing: Keith Morris—Black Flag’s original singer, the frontman of the Circle Jerks—has never had time for bullshit or idiocy. The form—raw, stripped of all pretense and fat—has always been a perfect vehicle for his bilious attacks. And his musical compatriots, no slouches themselves, have only been too happy to provide a musical background for the man’s aggressions. Off!’s stuff has been released incrementally on 7”, the perfect medium for such bombast. The perfection of the medium is emphasized by the collected work, which doesn’t sound like it’s going to be much—under a half-hour—but is: In the same way that my two days were so packed that it feels like I’ve been away for longer, the honesty and anger that shines so intensely in each of the band’s songs, when listened to as a lump sum, makes the appreciation of the band the more remarkable. In addition to feeling all this, and recording all this, Off!, live plays all this, night after night. They sustain their incredibly potent and direct attack, without devices or effects to aid them: incredibly honest, forceful and in-your-face, a rewarding but exhausting experience that feels much longer than it is in the best way possible because so much is packed into so little time. Morris has been at it for longer than many of his fans have been alive, and remains one a touchstone of how it’s done. He sure as hell doesn’t need an iPhone, that’s for sure.
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