The Twin Cities have been pumping out honest, gritty music for the last decade or more from artists like The Hold Steady and the Doomtree crew. The working-man ethos born from cold Midwestern cities underlies nearly everything from the area, both good or bad. The area’s latest export is Off With Their Heads’ (OWTH) third album, Home, and while it has potential, it can’t sustain its work ethic.
Lead singer/songwriter Ryan Young has a gruff Greg Graffin delivery that fits the band’s late ’90s pre-pop punk sound like a calloused glove. OWTH owes a lot to Graffin and the Bad Religion sound, although they avoid the standard bass-snare punk setup with a more driving beat, which does set them apart. Young is most convincing and effective on songs like “Come Find Me”, where he screams out road-weary lyrics: “I haven’t stayed in one place for more than a month since I left home / in search of the one thing that I can be other than a failure.”
The opener, “Start Walking”, featuring Young yelling over feedback (“There are no words to describe the awful feeling I have inside, so I shut down”), is a promising start to the album, but Home never lives up to that precedent. The honesty verges on too personal or even whiny on later tracks like ballad “Don’t Make Me Go” and “Always Alone”. The energy and drive lose their momentum, and the gruff working man gets stuck in flowery journal musings. The album is only about 30 minutes long, but the desire to move on hits long before that, and two strong tracks aren’t enough to save it. Home would be better for fist-pumping if OWTH stuck to the pounding streets.
Essential Tracks: “Come Find Me”, “Start Walking”