Some artists deal with the subject of mortality in delicate, reflective brushstrokes. OFF! bandleader Keith Morris confronts it roughly the same way a hungry pit bull meets a T-bone steak—with fang-gnashing ferocity. To wit: multiple compressed assaults from the band’s new sophomore salvo, Wasted Years (Vice). Because, at 58, the Circle Jerks/Black Flag vet (who still maintains a spin-off combo dubbed Flag) has faced his own frailties, overcome most of them, and simply accepted—then soldiered on—with the rest. Morris, guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven Shane McDonald and drummer Mario Rubalcaba will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on them.
Morris: I hit a wall as to what or who to write about next, but I looked up from my laptop and was immediately drawn to the Guided By Voices at the Fillmore in San Francisco poster hanging on the wall in front of me. Not to get all hippy dippy, but the flow of my universe chose my final subject for me: the songwriting genius of Robert Pollard and his varying cast and crew of musical compadres, GBV. I grew up in various cities in L.A. Count, and a common thread was the availability of insanely great music presented to us via AM radio in the ’60s and FM radio in the ’70s. This included the hits and best of Stax Records with the likes of Otis Redding, Sam And Dave, the Motown Records artists being the Four Tops, Temptations, Supremes, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles and Stevie Wonder. There were bands that came down out of Laurel Canyon: Buffalo Springfield, Love, Byrds, Doors. And over from Topanga Canyon: Spirit, Canned Heat and a few others. There were also some garage bands including the Seeds and the Standells, and we also had the happening sounds of the British Invasion: the Who, Kinks, Hollies, Zombies, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Animals, Beatles and more. These bands had something taking place that I’d bet my life savings on they would lay the foundation and draw up the blueprint for what goes on with the GBV guys from Dayton, Ohio. When I listen to them I certainly hear bits and pieces of the Who and the Kinks but done in a way that’s completely theirs. I also hear influences from the ’70s ranging from Cheap Trick, Foreigner, Big Star, Boston, R.E.M., Electric Light Orchestra to Kansas, Buzzcocks, Descendents and Styx. Now a few of these groups might not register on yer’ earth shattering rawk radar, but that’s totally cool ’cause some of this tuneage is an acquired taste or noise you’d dig out of yer’ parents record stash. As for GBV, if you’ve never listened to them the best recording to start with would be 1994’s Bee Thousand. “I Am A Scientist” and “Tractor Rape Chain” are pop gems that rank up there with almost anything by the Beatles and any of their contemporaries. Some of my other GBV faves are “I Am A Tree,” “Bulldog Skin”, “Not Behind The Fighter Jet” and “Jane Of The Waking Universe” off of 1997’s Mag Earwhig!. “Auditorium,” “Motor Away” and “My Valuable Hunting Knife” from Alien Lanes, which was released in 1995. “The Official Ironmen Rally Song” with “Lord Of Overstock” and “Underwater Explosions,” which are tracks on 1996’s Under The Bushes Under The Stars. And if you even care, you’ll notice that these songs and albums are all from the ’90s. Remember that GBV has released 22 albums and Robert Pollard has released 21 albums, so these songs I’ve mentioned are only the beginning!