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Off With Their Heads: In Desolation

B+

Off With Their Heads

Album: In Desolation
Label: Epitaph

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Nothing is more clichéd than accusing a punk band of sounding too slick. Sometimes, though, it’s a valid charge—especially if the band has built its entire appeal on unvarnished emotion and bloody-nosed immediacy. Off With Their Heads’ punk anthems have always felt like gut-punches, but on their Epitaph debut, In Desolation, there’s too much padding breaking the blows. Unlike From The Bottom, the Minneapolis band’s 2008 release, In Desolation is sanded-down, note-perfect, and cushioned by a barrier of perfectly sculpted distortion. That distance puts a damper on Ryan Young’s hoarse, crude confessionals: “The face that you see from the morning to night / is the mask that I put on to hide what’s inside / I don’t take it off until you fall asleep / I don’t want you to see what lives inside of me,” he growls on the disc’s closing track, “Clear The Air.” But where such a sentiment might have been felt, here it’s only heard, as if it were coming from another room. The upside is, the band has crafted another solid set of fat-free, bittersweet hooks, though they aren’t as catchy as From The Bottom’s. And Young’s chiseled vignettes about love, loss, and self-loathing continue to favorably resemble a brattier yet gloomier Against Me! Here’s hoping that next time, OWTH packs more sharp jabs and less muffled thuds.