Hackney Oslo, London,
3rd Oct 2014
Hitting Hackney’s Oslo for the first time, Louder Than War’s Martin Haslam catches abrasive punks OFF! and their early(ish) set of breakneck hardcore.
I was recently introduced to the music of OFF! by my friend and bandmate Michael (Hurny!). He knows that I appreciate noise when it’s done well, and I was quickly won over by their particular brand of pared-down songs. Very little of their repertoire comes in at over two minutes, so, in tribute to the band, I thought I’d waffle less in this review.
This was my first visit to The Oslo in Hackney and it’s quite a tidy little venue. Everything still has that ‘freshly painted’ look, which will no doubt fade should it (hopefully) stay open. I say this knowing that so many live music venues are closing on a monthly basis around the u.k. Still, it’s packed in here tonight. This is in part due to support band Cerebral Ballzy, who, on paper at least, seem like a sensible pairing with OFF! Cut from a similar, if younger, cloth, they play short, fast, angry punk from the U.S.A. They are clearly very popular, and even though I only arrived to see the last few minutes of their set, this amounted to several songs. The curfew tonight means a 10pm finish, good for getting home but not great for catching support bands. Their sound was a tad muddy, though it could be that they like it that way. However, it makes for a more challenging listening experience than is necessary.
After a short break, OFF! take to the stage, Keith Morris checking the equipment before they begin. No superfluous roadies/egos, they know what the crowd want. It is pointless to attempt a setlist review, as they rarely even have a break between songs until the second half of the set. Doubtless there are fans here who know every song, but I am a keen new fan, soaking up the atmosphere and the sound. And herein lies the difference between the two bands; OFF! have a specific sound and some great tunes. Yes, they’re fast, loud and in your face, but you can hear the instruments separately, you can hear what Keith is singing. Just like your mum/nan told you; this is important. Especially with really loud music. OFF! are tight, focussed and into having a good time. Some dullard actually heckles Keith for promoting their album. Apparently, this is “capitalist bollocks”. Is everyone supposed to play for free? Grow up, you twonk.
I might not know all the song titles, but I’m smart enough to buy their first self-titled album on the way out. Via Keith Morris’ work in Black Flag and Circle Jerks, you’ll have an idea of what to expect from OFF! Still fast, still impassioned. Michael reckons “it was too quiet”. I’d put that down to deafness, though Keith Morris did say that the venue had thought the soundcheck was too loud. Too loud? Do you want to stay open? I’d like to come here again, so please check your decibel output.
Words and photos by Martin Haslam.