Off With Their Heads – Home
Record Label: Epitaph
Release Date: March 12, 2013
"It's a long way back to be anything that anyone could love." Off With Their Heads' Home is riddled with gruff measures of self-loathing and confusion, mixing their own brand of punk with post-grunge. The tempo varies in a surprisingly pleasant way, as the band has chosen to slow the overall tempo from previous releases in favor of a more focused approach. Bill Stevenson's production is fantastic as usual, and vocalist Ryan Young's voice is brutal and ripping. His style ranges from Chuck Ragan (the Hot Water Music influence is often evident) to hints of Chris Cornell when the band takes their own riff on grunge. What's left is an interesting and varied effort that's worthy of your attention.
Home wastes no time kicking things off, with three consecutive anthemic tracks culminating in the catchy "Nightlife," backed by harmonizing guitar licks laid perfectly over each other. The lyrics are crushingly depressing, but will still resound as an anthem for many. This is a common theme throughout the entire record, and it continues through "Focus on Your Own Family," which appears to be a shot at the religious group Focus on the Family. Young's anger is transparent. Stylistically, he can occasionally sound like Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys - ditch the Irish and it's there.
The album takes a quick and abrupt turn with the down-trodden "Don't Make Me Go," a momentum killer but fascinating pause for reflection in an album full of self-doubt. It's a unique fit right in the middle of the record, with cautious hints to their regular style, but lyrically on point with everything else. Bare and vulnerable, it ends up being quite possibly the most memorable track on the album. Home resumes in familiar fashion with "Come Find Me" and "Janie," though the latter feels thin compared to the weight of the first half. "Always Alone" slows things down again, and things start to fall apart a little. Home is very strong through "Come Find Me," but the later efforts at slowing things up come up short. "Take Me Out" is a strong finisher, but it's too late.
Home is an ambitious effort that veers in several stylistic directions. Sometimes it's terrific, and sometimes it stumbles. It's an album of gloomy lyrics put together with excellent production, but one that's also full of missteps, particularly on the second half. "Don't Make Me Go" is a pivotal point on the album, not only as the most poignant song, but as a divider. Even the quicker song on the second half like "Seek Advice Elsewhere" and "Janie" lack the same brutality and depth that "Shirts and "Nightlife" have. Don't let that deter you completely, as this is still an album more than worth listening to, one that has several excellent tracks and is never bad. Just expect soul-crushing depression if you pay attention to the lyrics.
Agreed that the first half is superior, and that "Don't Make Me Go" is the #1 highlight. Not to say the second half is bad though, the entire album is great. The lyrics and vocals especially are incredible.
Great review, I would've rated it a bit higher though.
Happy to see someone on staff decided to review this and glad to hear you also like "Don't Make Me Go." I think "Seek Advice Elsewhere" is just as good as those other two songs, but I can see how you would think that way about "Janie." It definitely sticks out and while the re-recording sounds better than the original, I think they would have been better off tossing in a new song instead.
That said it's still a solid record and the best I've heard so far this year, despite the overly depressing tone. I've been going through a rough patch these last few months and I find this record actually makes me feel better, haha. You didn't do a ton of comparisons to their previous stuff, but I also think this is their best work yet.
Spot on review. But I think I like this record a tad better than you, cause the first tracks are indeed insane, and after don't let me go things are a bit less awesome, but it's not like the songs are that bad. In their discography, these songs are still one of the best they made, in my opinion. It's just that the first half is so unbelievable great.
I love the closing track so much. "Always barely scraping by" has a memorable delivery. This has been my favorite album of the year so far, mostly because I am fascinated by Ryan's true grit honest-as-fuck songwriting.