Recently, whilst sat in a burrito place before a gig, I was scrolling endlessly through my phone looking at things but not really taking anything in until something caught my eye. Somebody in a punk rock vinyl group was selling a bunch of Off With Their Heads records including In Desolation. I've been trying to get hold of that album for ages so I quickly messaged the guy and got a real bargain. As soon as it arrived it went straight onto the turntable and I quickly remembered just how great this album it is. I decided to put it forward as a "future classic." Let me tell you why.
First a little bit of history. Off With Their Heads are an American punk rock band that originated in Minnesota in 2002. Playing a particularly harsh and gruff form of punk rock, Off With Their Heads are lead by one of the greatest lyricists of his generation – Ryan Young. Over the years the band have had a rotating cast of members due to the band’s busy schedule and the members’ own commitments. Young has stated in the past that this has kept the band feeling fresh over the years. The band first found their way onto my radar after they released a music video for the track Fuck This, I'm Out from their 2008 album From The Bottom that was originally released on No Idea Records. I later found out that they had released a handful of EPs and singles through the Gainesville based label and this soon caught the attention of the mighty Epitaph Records. In early 2010 Off With Their Heads signed with Epitaph and that summer they released In Desolation.
For me, In Desolation is the album that really put Off With Their Heads on the punk rock map globally. What really helped was how much cleaner the production felt. On their earlier releases there was a rawness that I loved but perhaps made it a little less accessible for all fans of the punk rock genre. In Desolation managed to sound much clearer, so you can easily work out and relate to what Young is singing about, without taking away from the sound that drew people into Off With Their Heads in the first place. Young's gruff and often harsh vocals are not harmed in the production of In Desolation and arguably sound better than ever. I think it's fair to say that Young isn't the greatest singer in the world but this really is part of the charm of Off With Their Heads. It makes them into an everyman type band that you could be the lead singer for and it makes for a great live show with a whole room shouting along to every single lyric.
I've already mentioned that I think that Young is probably the greatest lyricist of his generation. He has the great ability of being able to write this incredibly relatable lyrics. They almost exclusively tackle dark and depressing topics but somehow manage to make you feel better when you're singing along with them. Make no mistake, In Desolation is an album you have to sing along to at the top of your voice with your fist planted firmly in the sky. It has that fantastic cathartic feeling that the very best music has. In Desolation is a healing album. On the album, topics tackled include trying to escape from your depression, being abused or bullied in the past and getting revenge, anxiety attacks, grieving, bad family relationships and admitting that you're not okay. Something for everyone. Clear The Air is one of the stand out tracks on the album and, for me, it's perhaps the best song lyrically I've ever heard. There are so many lines that hit home so much. It breaks your heart and really does make you feel better. If you don't know the song then I really implore you to go and read the lyrics here. Alongside Clear The Air, more standout songs are Drive, Their Own Medicine, Spare Time, All I Can Do and the piano led My Episodes but in truth every song is a banger. Off With Their Heads are without a doubt up there with the best bands of their generation and I would predict few have touched their fans in a way that Off With Their Heads did on In Desolation and continued to do on their next album, 2013's Home – also a banger!
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This future classic was written by Colin Clark.