Young, dumb and punky

Off By One (LMC Records)

Off By One

By Kevin Gibson

Oh, what Green Day hath wrought. By following the Ramones' lead, Green Day made punk somehow popular (contradiction deluxe, I know) several years ago. The Goo Goo Dolls came along and bastardized it, and now we have Blink 182 and other commercialized pretenders standing in line to cash their checks. (It's no wonder Joey and Dee Dee destroyed themselves on drugs. I bet the Blink boys never felt the need to sniff glue.)

Now comes Off By One. At the very least, this group of San Diego teens has the good sense to admit, in its press materials, it is the hundredth (at least) "punk" band debuting in 2002. It's true, and a cursory listen fails to set Off By One apart. But dig a little deeper and you'll find a strength that, while it probably wouldn't convince the Ramones, at least keeps this band from being another Goo Goo Dolls.

Don't get me wrong; this is music FOR teens, done BY teens. Track five, "Untouchable," isn't about gangsters but about the girl you wanted but could never have. Awwww. This is stuff the Knack was writing about twenty years ago, and doing it tongue in cheek. But Off By One, well, is living that stuff right now, not reflecting on it. So it's sincere. By getting into the biz now, songwriter Marc Gould - who was a trained pianist writing his own music before he ever set foot in a kindergarten class room - has all the room in the world to grow as a songwriter. The band impressed fellow San Diego natives Convoy enough to get an invite to record a demo in Convoy's recording space, and the resulting album was mixed by Grammy-winning Tim Palmer (U2, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, etc.).

In short, keep an eye on these boys. It might be a curse to put that "next big thing" tag on them (again, remember what happened to the Knack), but all the signs are pointing in that direction. The songwriting and support are there. And word is they're pretty cute as well. As we all know, that's the only thing that held the Ramones back.