Off With Their Heads: Home (Epitaph Records)
With a classic 90’s skate punk sound and well crafted lyrics, the new Off With Their Heads album proved a challenging but worthwhile listen for Louder Than War’s Chris Hearn.
For 10 years, Minneapolis’ Off With Your Heads have been pounding away towards punk rock acclaim and a certain amount of buzz banding and hype induction. ‘Home’ is their second album on Epitaph Records, and although they have had a ton of 7 inch singles and splits, this is only their third full length studio album. And it’s a decent album, I can’t lie. But there is one issue that I had trouble reconciling. The core member and lead vocalist, Ryan Young, has this intensely strained, raspy, harsh street punk voice. At first, it felt as though the vocals didn’t match up with what the song writing needed. The songs are ones that I felt might work better with a gentler, smoother voice.
There is a lot of excellent writing here which to me is the true strength of this album. These are great songs lyrically that come across as deeply personal and show a heart held out on a sleeve. They are songs about self-esteem, depression, addiction, love, family, religion and surviving life. But, then you have this singing which is hard, brash, scratchy and prickly which made it a challenge at first to focus on the lyrics and absorb them.
After thinking about it, and listening to the album several more time, I started to change my original opinion. Maybe he does have the perfect voice for these lyrics: Raw, deep lyrics on hard subjects sung in a hard, brash, prickly way? I guess it does work. And, although at first I felt as though the vocals were just too rough for my sensitive musical pallet to begin with, once again, several listens later, I’ve become rather hooked on it.
Musically, ‘Home’ is far from cutting edge or envelope pushing. This album is out on Epitaph Records, and it sounds like a late 90’s Epitaph release to the core. And, it was even produced by Bill Stevenson, drummer for the Descendants. But, regardless of not being original, they sound great. There is no shortage of energy or passion here. The production value is high. And the lyrics are better than average. This is an album that will resonate with many disenfranchised kids, with the rather dark places and spaces the writing leads to. It will also fit in with the old skate punk crowd who like to relive their youth by playing albums such as these on their minivan factory stereos. As far as Ryan Young, it seems like this album and these songs were a great outlet for him to deal with some of his intense emotions in a positive way.
So, yes, it took a bit to come to terms with my misguided notion that lyrics like these must be performed in a set fashion. It took me a bit to get used to the rough, brash vocals. But, now that I have made peace with these issues, I can sit back and honestly say that I like this album, and like it more with each listen, and it has been getting many as of late.
Check out Off With Their Heads on Facebook.
Words by Chris Hearn. More writing by Chris on Louder Than War can be found here.