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Top Sounds - O

OCTAVES - Greener Pastures {Hotfoot} Lord... This is not my brand of Hardcore ear-honey at all. OCTAVES specialise, and actually do it very well, in that disjointed, fractious and technically proficient territory presided over by DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. Not sure if anyone in OCTAVES shits on stage - but at times it sounds like they’re giving it a try. In all fairness, these fellas do a bit more, bringing sweeping soundscapes into the fury, especially with the ethereal female vocals of opener ‘Fix The Fernback’. I heard a lot of that Revelation Records sound circa JUDAS FACTOR/ HIMSA in this, with hints of GRADE and BLACKLISTED. The 5-piece band hails from Baltimore and would probably fair better in Metal rags like Kerrang than Punk-based Scanner. Highlight? ‘Be Angry At The Sun For Setting On A Sea Of Sons’ that’s possibly the most direct track here. (06.04.11)

OFF! - Compared To What {Southern Lord} OFF!’s 747-esque sonic attack continues with another 7". This is a mere two tracker, with both cuts being covers. The lead track is by Eugene Daniels and is probably the nearest thing to something mid-paced thus far from the band, but it’s no less insistent or abrasive and features a crazed, Ginn-style discordant guitar solo and breakdown finale. The flip, ‘Rotten Apple’, is by an obscure Garage band called ID and sees a snide vocal performance from Keith Morris coupled with a neat, taut and caustic M8. It’s pressed on a heavy-weight slab of black vinyl and presented in a solid sleeve. Not as essential as the set below (an extra track per side would sure have helped) but lets face it, with the pedigree this lot has and the decidedly vintage USHC direction they’re ploughing... Well.. How can ya go wrong? (27.07.11)

OFF! - First Four EPs {Vice} Surely the most highly anticipated and hotly hyped Punk release for years. Like you didn’t know, this includes one Keith Morris on vocals (go do your own fucking research if you don’t know the name), REDD KROSS’ Steve MacDonald, BURNING BRIDES’ Dimitri Coats and Mario Rubalcaba of, among others, ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT. The sound? Mind-frying, uncontrollable and simply fantastic 80s style raw USHC that unavoidably draws comparisons with early BLACK FLAG. The songs pummel with the same intensity as those early BLACK FLAG singles and with titles like ‘Now I’m Pissed’, ‘Fuck People’ and ‘I Don’t Belong’ you know Morris is not pulling any punches for some stab at ‘mainstream’ stardom. You get four 7" singles here, each with four tracks on it, wrapped in a solid box and accompanied by a lyric book and download code. Each single is adorned with the art of Raymond Pettibon which draws another parallel with BLACK FLAG. Highlight? ‘Jeffrey Lee Pierce’, ‘Poison City’ and ‘Black Thoughts’ all standout but really, this is best experienced in one sub-20 minute Punk Rock blur. Easily on par with the best work Morris has ever done (and way surpassing that appalling MIDGET HANDJOB project) and, in light of that work, it says volumes about how smoking this slab of raging Hardcore sounds. Already a classic in the making. (26.03.11)

OFFENDERS - Anthology 1981-1985 {Just4Fun} For those who don’t know, OFFENDERS was a Hardcore band from Texas. Among the band’s number was Mikey Donaldson who also played in MDC and is now, sadly, deceased. This 26-track retrospective is the first OFFENDERS release since Donaldson died and, given the title, it’s odd that it doesn’t include 1981’s ‘Lost Causes’ 7". What it includes is the classic ‘I Hate Myself’ 7" from 1984, 1985’s untouchable ‘Endless Struggle’ LP and the debut album ‘We Must Rebel’ from 1983. It’s blistering stuff, as fast as DRI but with the dynamics and attitude of MDC or THE DICKS, check out the (relatively) epic ‘Endless Struggle’ or ‘You Got A Right’ for proof. Besides 26 tracks of indispensable USHC, you get liner notes from guitarist Tony and some rare pics and flyers from his own collection. But there is a negative: the CD’s mastering. The ‘We Must Rebel’ tracks are much quieter than the rest; admittedly the original album wasn’t blessed with great sound, but just levelling out the master volume would have made a massive difference. Plus, the cuts are staggered, so while the ‘Endless Struggle’ material rages, the weakened sound of the ‘....Rebel’ tracks is amplified. A minor gripe and I concur that Punk (especially from this era) is not all about ‘production’ but one that, for the sake of bit of mastering time, is really annoying. Amazing songs though, stuff that any aficionado of USHC can’t live without. (23.12.10) 

OFFENDERS, THE - Action Reaction {Mad Butcher} If you’re thinking this is something fresh from the Texas HC band reviewed above, you’d better think again. This is, in fact, the second album by the Italian Two-Tone/ Ska band. It’s really not the kinda thing I get off on, so it should be of no surprise when I say that, listening to this, I got a tad bored. It’s well done and upbeat with the title track, ‘Live Fast’ and, in particular, ‘Run From The Riot Squad’ all bopping along with an energy akin to first album SPECIALS meets early BEAT. Oddly, the other highlight is the smooth Reggae groove of ‘What You Feel’. I’d hoped this may have injected more of a SECRET AFFAIR/ JAM Mod attack into the Two-Tone homage. This was originally recorded back in 2008, but this version has been remixed. It sounds OK to me and will serve best as a bit of background music for those hung-over Sunday mornings. Not only that, but it allows me to the opportunity to tell you all a little joke: What’s green and hangs from a twat? A Parka!! Haha!! (20.12.10)

OFFICER DOWN - Thrown To The Water {Pumpkin} Can’t tell ya much about this lot bar the fact they’re from the UK, this is the band’s second album and it’s an impressive slab of melodic yet grizzled HC. I heard a lot of a super tight GOOD RIDDANCE influence but mixed with a non-metal, non-ska LEFTOVER CRACK style bile and a CRIMPSHRINE rawness. There was plenty of invention amidst the ‘core too, with the use of acoustic guitar, piano and some adventurous breakdowns. Highlights include the closing ‘Make A Choice’, the snotty Punk of ‘We Are Not The Enemy’ and, best of all, ‘Lockdown’ that flew along on a frantic riff and employed some inventive backing vocals. Sounds like there are two vocalists too with lyrics that are political and full of opinion. Production is bold, boisterous and clear while retaining a neat, raw Punk feel. Solid stuff. (24.10.11)

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS - In Desolation {Epitaph} Epitaph debut for this highly-respected five-piece outta Minneapolis.  For those who don't know, OWTH was signed to No Idea releasing the excellent 'From The Bottom' album in 2008 and come on like the perfect mix of DILLINGER FOUR and AVAIL, with the smallest hint of AGAINST ME! thrown in.  I, like others, suspected Epitaph may distil the band's sound into something more sterile and mainstream but, with the exception of adding a bit of depth to the sound and that of the bass specifically, it's good to hear the familiar barbed expressions of self-loathing and depression sung over fizzing, raucous and melodic Punk thrashings.  The album has many highlights be it the rolling chorus and plaintive M8 of 'Trying To Breathe', or the riff frenzy of both 'ZZYZY' and 'Spare Time' juxtaposed with the acoustic soberity of 'My Episodes'.  But it’s the closer, ‘Clear The Air’, and ‘The Eyes Of Death’ that steal the album, being arguably the two best songs the band has written.  Both pivot around Ryan Young’s stunningly poignant lyrics with the latter in particular being laden with quotable lyrics but none more so than the opening epithet: “I’ve been to hell with no plan for return, I’ve seen things that make your eyes burn, I’ve seen the eyes of death through a loved one dying.”  Another stellar release from an always reliable band and certainly a contender for album of the year. (04.09.10) 
 
OLD MAN MARKLEY - Guts ‘n’ Teeth {Fat Wreck} Most readers will probably know I’m a bit of a sucker for acoustic folk stuff. I don’t mean the cheesy Folk-Punk phoniness of FLOGGING MOLLY or REAL McKENZIES, but quality, energetic Folk with an edge. OLD MAN MARKLEY is an eight-piece outta the San Fernando Valley and this is their debut album. It’s packed with rip-snortin’, honky-tonk, hyperactive, energetic acoustic tracks that bring to mind the brilliance of WHISKEY AND CO. This is quite a departure in terms of sound for Fat Wreck and it’s instantly signalled with the opening, unaccompanied virtually perfect vocal harmony of ‘For Better, For Worse’. Highlight for me was ‘Running Weight’ that had a decidedly MEN THEY COULDN’T HANG vibe although the rabble-rousing Country honk of ‘Do Me Like You Do’ with its sassy female vocal comes a close second. Can’t tell ya much about packaging or lyrics as this came in a shitty black card wallet. Musically though, this will be a big hitter at those drunken Summer hoedowns. (28.07.11) 
 
ONE WIN CHOICE - Conveyor {Jump Start} Crickey - this 5-piece outta New Jersey seems to have come outta nowhere to drop an album of bitter, pulsating, twisting and down-right impressive Punk Rock. If ya take a healthy dollop of where REFUSED were heading on ‘The Shape Of Punk To Come’, add on some RISE AGAINST accessibility and the balls-out Richmond, VA Punk of ANN BERETTA you’re close. Add some well observed politics and you’re there. This is technical stuff too, with the guitars doing all sorts of melodic runs and riffs to lift these songs above simple ‘melodic Hardcore’. It’s not wanky Metal riffage or sleep-inducing Math Rock either - just clear and insistent playing. Highlights? ‘Hands Over Hearts’ had a hint of ANTI-FLAG about it (both in terms of subject and delivery) while ‘Where My Allegiance Lies’ hung around a massive chorus and genuine sense of defiance. There’s not a duffer here in fact and visually the whole sleeve has a real nice, almost regal, concept about it. Without a doubt, one the best of the year so far. (26.05.11)

ORGANIC - The Life And Times Of Sal Sagev {Boss Tuneage} I’m sure I reviewed this in an old print issue of Scanner. Not that I mind cuz this is snotty, early Bay Area sounding Punk with a big CRIMPSHRINE vibe. The band hailed from Portland, Oregon and this 25 track disc acts as a retrospective. First off are eight new tracks (at the time of the original release at least) that feature abrasive, bratty vocals with both ‘Parkdale’ and the violin-lead ‘Candles In The Park’ being highlights. That’s followed by the band’s debut 7" which is a cracking slice of blistering Punk with the repeated plea of ‘Decline’ and the PIXIES-esque arrangements of ‘Hot Words, Wax Lips’ standing out. The album, ‘7 Mile Engine’ follows with an obvious nod to both SCREECHING WEASEL and JAWBREAKER. The final bonus comes with a couple of early demos and two live tracks. There are no dates or any info regarding recording, but I am guessing this dates from about 1995-1998. Anyone into the original Lookout! Records sound would revel in this. It’s sure been a big spinner here! (10.07.09)

OUTSIDERS, THE - The Words Will Write Themselves {Deep Red} Debut full-lengther from these globe-trotting Kiwis who include ex-members of some of New Zealand’s most notable bands of the last 10 years including RITALIN, NOT QUITE RIGHT and SOMMERSET. With that kinda pedigree, it’s of no surprise that this is indeed an impressive platter. This certainly has more of an identity than the demo below, with the AGAINST ME!/ JAWBREAKER comparisons being much less evident. Here, the band has brought in a GAMEFACE melody and some arrangements that SAMIAM would be proud of. Highlights include ‘Waiting In Line’ that features a soaring chorus and great lyrical imagery ("We’re not Gods, we are whores, trampled on palace floors"), ‘This House Ain’t A Home’ and the title track that both display the excellent vocal interaction between Dan, Niam and Stuart while ‘Voice Of Reason’ includes an addictive, anthemic chorus. An excellent release by this New Zealand band and, like many of the former records by the album’s creators, this makes strong evidence for the OUTSIDERS to lay claim to being the best band in New Zealand right now. (18.10.10) 

OUTSIDERS, THE - s/t {Deep Red} Debut release from this new New Zealand band that’s made up of members who were in two of the best NZ bands of recent times: RITALIN and NOT QUITE RIGHT. Apparently this was recorded as a demo but, due to the high quality of the finished article, was given an official release. Easy to see why also as this is some serious audio ammunition. It lacks the blind fury of RITALIN but shares with NOT QUITE RIGHT a highly developed sense of songwriting. Comparisons to ‘Bivouac’ era JAWBREAKER and, more specifically, AGAINST ME! are hard to avoid, but there is enough identity here to state that this is not some limp-dicked plagiarist imitation. Opener ‘The Beginning Of The End’ displays great vocal interaction while the anthemic ‘Walk Away’ features some strident bass work. Throughout the disc there is a nod toward the accessibility of DEAD TO ME also. I was curious what Niam would come up with post-RITALIN and I am pleased to hear something confident and refreshing that doesn’t rehash past sounds or is a weak-kneed attempt at commercialisation. Another NZ band that could be a match for any European or US counterpart. (02.05.10)

OXXON - Radio Zero {DIY} This trio outta Stuttgart, Germany has apparently been bashing out its brand of catchy Punk Rock since 1995 and the 12 tracks on offer here are weighty, mid-paced bruisers coming on like SOCIAL DISTORTION given a European bent. Vocalist Ralf has a voice that is uncannily similar to Clif Hanger outta THE FREEZE - it’s a barbed vocal underlined with an acute sense of both melody and menace. Highlight has to be the piledriving, JAWBREAKER-esque pummel of ‘Friday 12th’ along with ‘The Factory’ that speaks of the sheer mindless drudgery of a 9-5 job, and the catchy ‘Radiation Baby’. Closer, ‘One Below’, highlights the FREEZE comparison to the maximum - it’s a song that’d fit on ‘Freakshow’ easily. Graphics are really slick too with contrasting monotone images and lyrics printed over the top. The big negative is the crass, cheesy radio link ‘theme’ that runs through the album; it just breaks any continuity the album has while the closing four minutes of dead air is just that - dead! An unfortunate way to finish a decent album. (04.09.10)

Hit HERE for material reviewed prior to 2009 including:
OCTOBER FILE, ONWARD PILGRIM (2 reviews)