This is not a record review.
Record reviews are fucking terrible. Let's be real about it. Yes, I know I've made part of my living off of writing the damn things over the past few years. But it hasn't been an honest living.
Everyone who reviews records–yes, everyone–is a liar. They lie about how much they know about music. They lie about how much time they spend trying to understand where a band is coming from. They lie about their bias or lack thereof. And then they lie about lying.
All this, of course, is excusable. After all, it's only human. Everyone lies–or at least plays loose with the truth–about lots of things every day of their lives. We do it when we talk about our jobs, our relationships, our families, our beliefs. We do it when we talk to others. We do it when we talk to ourselves.
But as long as you can fess up–and maybe have a good, loud, bitter laugh about it–every once in a while, you're good. You're still human.
There's a little band from Minneapolis called Off With Their Heads who just put out a new LP, From The Bottom, on No Idea Records. This is not a review of their album. The band deserves better than that. They aren't some bunch of carefully mussed assholes making frat-dude indie-pop or singer-songwriter crud, trying to pimp it to fellow dumbasses through the intricate, parasitic network of hype-mongers and shit-eaters known as the music press. (Yup, that would be me.)
Off With Their Heads is a punk band. Not a prefixed, hyphenated kind of punk. Just punk. And From The Bottom is one of the best punk albums I've heard in a long time. Their songs are about struggling with being a shitty boyfriend. They're about being pissed off when the media tries to stir up terrorism fears after a huge bridge collapses in your hometown. They're about fucking up, over and over, and wondering if you're learning to get better or simply eroding your ability to ever change.
It's plainspoken and plainly played. It's gruff and grim and guilt-ridden and vulnerable. It makes me feel like I'm a kid again. It makes me feel older than I've ever felt in my life.
Like I said, this is not a record review. I'll happily admit my unprofessional prejudice here: I've been a fan of No Idea for many years, and some good friends of mine just wrapped up being in a band that was on the label for quite a while. I've never met Off With Their Heads, but I feel like they're somehow my friends, too. That has a lot to do with why I love their record.
From The Bottom isn't a good album. It isn't a bad album. There are no such things. It is, however, an album I can relate to, one that owns up to and then stares down its mistakes–the shortcomings and subjectivity and stupidity of the four guys who made it. It's not brave. It's desperate. No hiding behind ornament or metaphor. No playing it safe or being artfully shocking. No bullshit.
Which is way more than I can say for record reviews.