Be Good is the fifth studio album from punk rockers Off With Their Heads and marks a return to full electric instrumentation from 2016’s acoustic effort Won’t Be Missed. The band are reminiscent of the days before punk was overtaken by its pop sub-genre and the music was played with guts and genuine feeling rather than empty platitudes, with their last studio album, 2013’s Home, a prime example of this. Off With Their Heads wouldn’t be out of place on the superb Punk-O-Rama albums of the early-2000s, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rancid, Pennywise and Bad Religion.
Much of Off With Their Heads’ sound is centered around the gravelly lead vocals of frontman and band constant Ryan Young, sounding in places similar to Chuck Ragan (known for Hot Water Music and his solo work), with Young bringing a slight northern-U.S. lilt rather than Ragan’s occasionally country twang. The group are spearheading the resurgence of the gruff-voiced punk rock genre along with Menzingers and Propaghandi. With vocals harsher than the former and instrumentation less frantic than the latter, they sit in the sweet spot in the middle.
What is often overlooked in some albums is the flow of energy throughout its whole length, and between tracks, and this is a balance which Be Good strikes perfectly; just as it may seem to lose its grip on you with slower and more melodic passages, it firmly seizes you with both hands, embodied by fist-pumper “No Love” taking no prisoners in its brief, sub-three minute run time. Leading straight into album standout, “Take Me Away,” an emotive, “scream until your throat is raw” punk ballad in 6/4, Be Good never dips in quality, outright momentum or sheer enjoyment for the listener.
Check out the comedic video for album opener “Disappear” for a taste of Off With Their Heads’ sound on Be Good:
The album stands as a more polished release than Home, and a strong stride forward in both songwriting quality and maturity. Much of the lyrics throughout Off With Their Heads’ back catalogue are based on negative feelings, yet on Be Good this brings the emotion that can allow the listener to empathize more with the performance rather than some of the outright bleakness to be found on Home. Given the personal struggles endured by Young following the release of Home it’s not surprising that such darkness can be found on that release, but to get back to writing and performing music not only of the same quality but indeed a step or two up on Be Good is an admirable achievement.
Be Good (pre-order/save here) is a superb reminder that punk can be melodic and accessible without being overly bubblegum sweet. As a fan of heavy music who treads the path via punk rather than rock or metal, this album is both a throwback to those bands of fifteen years ago who first made me fall in love with music, as well as a fresh slice of the pinnacle of what punk could be in 2019. Off With Their Heads have established themselves as a serious modern punk rock force to be reckoned with; Be Good is not only their finest work to date, but one of the best albums the genre has seen in many years.
“No Love” is the latest single off of Be Good with a just-released new music video. Check it out:
Be Good Track Listing:
02. Be Good
03. You Will Die
04. No Love
05. Take Me Away
06. Tear Me Apart
07. Trash It
08. Let It All
09. Severe Errand
10. Locking Eyes
Run Time: 36:02 Release Date: August 16, 2019 Record Label: Epitaph Records