There’s never been much light to be found in the work of punk rock lifers Off With Their Heads. Delivering stern lessons of self-flagellation, their output has often been as bleak as the winters of the American Mid-West they call home.
‘Be Good’, ultimately doesn’t change that – Off With Their Heads are still a thoroughly miserable bunch – but the theme of self-improvement runs throughout, making it an album of penitence and acceptance. It’s rather deep too; acknowledging past mistakes and appreciating that, for all your attempts to make amends, it might not ever be enough.
Fortunately, for all the weighty themes, Off With Their Heads still rock hard, and ‘Be Good’ has some rollicking moments of mosh-pit friendly carnage. Opening salvo ‘Disappear’ and the title track are prime examples; the former a cataclysmic realisation of time misspent, the latter a rallying call for the ages.
Elsewhere, the outstanding ‘Trash It’ is a gloriously thrashy punk rock gem that ties nicely into the album’s overarching themes, with vocalist Ryan Young looking at the changes he could make to his life to make things better.
It’s worth noting that ‘Be Good’ sounds fantastic too. It still possesses a gritty earthiness, but every throat-shredding yell or choppy riff is front and centre. On the likes of ‘Locking Eyes’, which sees a drop-off in tempo, such striking production ensures ‘Be Good’ sounds well-rounded and considered, rather than the venting spleen of a man railing against world’s ills.
Of course, Off With The Heads are still angry, but as this rage is self-directed, it works symbiotically with the theme of personal growth. Making positive change is hard, and it’s easy to slip back into bad habits, and while such failings seem to be constantly bubbling under ‘Be Good’ is an affirmative break of light that heralds the start of a bold new chapter in the life of one of the Mid-West’s most enduring punk acts.