OFF! is a rarity in the punk rock / hardcore world – a late career entity that is equal to, if not better than, all the acts the members have been involved with over the last 35 years. Keith Morris led Black Flag and Circle Jerks, Dimitri Coats fronted Burning Brides, Steve Shane McDonald was / is bassist for Redd Kross, and Mario Rubalcaba also mans the drum kit for Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes. Without a doubt, this is impressive company – but OFF! truly are something special. The band recently dropped the Wasted Years full length – 16 tracks of blistering aggression that covered just over 20 minutes. My favorite record by them so far, and here we are just a few weeks later with 2 non LP tracks – Learn to Obey and I See Through You, released on Paul Weller’s favorite day, Record Store Day.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
There are probably over a dozen tracks by the Beastie Boys that I can highlight for this little series, and the beauty of the Beastie Boys is that they’d probably all touch on different genres of music – acid jazz, hip-hop, punk – it’s all spread throughout the group’s discography. Sabotage was one of the last tracks completed for the band’s 1994 album Ill Communication, having floated around for a bit as an instrumental. The song originated as an idea Adam Yauch (MCA) had where the fuzz bass keeps playing with stops and starts throughout the track to add suspense and drama (something they’d revisit with the video for the song). Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) was inspired to lay down vocals about 2 weeks before the album was handed into the record company, and gave the track some inspired punk rock flavor. The song was a huge hit on Modern Rock radio and is viewed as one of the defining songs of the 90’s. The video was a collaboration with Spike Jonze, and is an homage to 1970’s crime drama television (think Hawaii Five-O). The song pulls off the trick of sounding like a hip-hop song AND a punk song, which is a tribute to the musical skills of the Beastie Boys. Though the song is harmless fun, it was also red flagged as a song not to be played on the radio in the aftermath of 9/11. I like when Ad-Rock screams “So listen up ’cause you can’t say nothin’ / You’ll shut me down with a push of your button?”, but my favorite part of the song is around 1:50 mark when the music fades back in with MCA’s fuzz bass high in the mix, and Ad-Rock just lets out a demonic wail. This was Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D at the top of their game.
In a song about Washington D.C. by The Magnetic Fields on their magnum opus, 69 Love Songs (titled “Washington D.C. strangely enough) they recited everything that is great about the city – “Washington, D.C. / It’s paradise to me / It’s not because it is the grand old seat / Of precious freedom and democracy / No, no, no”. The song is actually an ode to the narrator’s true love and not an ode to the great things of DC, but somehow I misinterpreted the songs meanings for years and envisioned it as a tribute to the city itself. The only thing missing from the song? An ode to the great bands that came out of the city. I’m talking about Marvin Gaye, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Thievery Corporation, and countless others from all genres. Go ahead and add Dot Dash to that list.