The debut album by these San Diego teen-punkers hasnít had much luck on the charts, but it already holds plenty of historical value for Top 40 junkies. The disc was produced by the Matrix, who were just hitting the commercial jackpot with Avril Lavigne when it was released last summer. Their buoyant soundscapes are a given ó and with his forlorn hooks and good looks, frontman Marc Gould is a good match for Avril in the barely legal mainstream-pop gender wars. " If you were a book, Iíve read it/If you were a word, Iíve said it, " he snickers on " Déjà Vu, " but itís hard to blame his girl for playiní him when he breaks into a crude hip-hop interlude later in the song. With help from the Matrix, Off by One show a knack for winsome melodies, especially on " Cinderella " and the bouncy rock-star daydream " On My Way. " The band are charmingly rough around the edges, yet they show admirable restraint on the albumís most sensitive track, " Try. " When they rev up the Natalie Imbruglia hit " Torn " and take it to the races, itís as much a symbol of their pop ambitions as it is an ironic punk statement.
(Off by One open for Fishbone and Kingís X next Tuesday, May 13, downstairs at the Middle East. Call 617-864-EAST.)