Archive for November, 2009

IT’S…….The Top 50 of the Last 15 (Part One)

Posted in Opinions on November 1, 2009 by Billy Shears

Ugh. A huge list of songs. What could be worse reading; more boring subject matter? But alas…boredom has prevailed, and I’ve often thought about doing such a subject before, so here are the fruits of my labors.

The subject matter: to compile a listing of 50 of what I would consider to be the best representations of songs that the oi!/street punk genre has seen released over the last 15 years. Since 1994.

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Image included to make this post seem more oi!

So…getting on with it, the list will be broken up into 5 parts, with each post containing 10 of the tunes that I have chosen as my selections.

The inclusions below are nothing if not unstable; It is, to use a lame-ass journalism term, “a living document.” Always changing. I am  all for listening to pleas for additions, based on omissions and snubs, real or imagined. Also more than willing to listen to arguments on subtractions, based on good dialog on why the inclusion of questioned tune is offensive. This list is obviously not without bias. Since it is my own list, the bands I’ve chosen best represent MY OWN selections of the best the scene has had to offer over the last 15 years, and my personal biases will no doubt be included. Apologies all around to those whose own choices were overlooked.

Hopefully this entry may turn you on to music you’ve never heard before, but probably not. Perhaps more likely it may remind you of a band or a song you’d like to revisit, and thereby gets you more involved if only in a small way.

In 100% completely random order to keep you on your toes, here is the first offering of ten of what I have designated to be the cream of the crop of the last 15 years.

Take from it what you will!

Cock Sparrer. “Because You’re Young.”  Guilty As Charged. 1994. The guv’nors of the whole.fucking.thing as it were. No surprise they are included at near the top of the list. It’s 1994 and they are showing the upstarts how it’s done by writing an album of stunning quality. “Because You’re Young” is it’s best track, and perfectly encapsulates the bravado and vulnerability of being young. This tune achieved classic status from Day One. A true five star offering. The album contained several other moments that were near the same.

Another Man’s Poison – “Alf Garnett’s Heart Attack.” Howsa ‘Bout That. 1994. I would say that Another Man’s Poison are probably my favorite British oi! band of the last 20 years. They took the formula from their fore-bearers, and put their own twist on it, to come up with the best sounding street tunes that the UK had to offer from 1991 – 1995. Howsa Bout That was one of their last releases, and it really showed what they were capable of. This tune is a re-working of the single version (the single version being superior in my eyes, but before 1994) and is sped up, but generally the same – it muses the faults of a disappearing Britain, and a changing times that not everyone in the country was happy to undergo. Setting the issues at hand through the eyes of one of Britain’s most well known TV characters in Alf Garnett, it’s a smart, catchy song and an example of why they were, for a time, the best oi! band in Europe.

AMP

AMP

Vanilla Muffins – “Sugar Oi! C’mon.” Sugar Oi! C’mon! ep. 2000. Keyboard riff lifted from Men Without Hats “Pop Goes the World.” Said keyboard and vocals from Mr. Frankie “Boy” Flame. Lyrics like “Liam Gallagher and Robbie Williams suddenly wanna be best friends/We got them on the run – Sugar oi! C’mon!” All wrapped in the usual amazingly catchy tuneage from the Vanilla Muffins. That, friends, is the formula for an instant classic. The band can do no wrong in my eyes, and this is them at their poppy best.

The Herberts. “Hais et Fiers.” The Oi! Generation ep. 1994. The Oi! Generation ep. 1994. From the clean but tough guitar sound in the intro, to the commanding chorus that conjures up images of chanting French monks in the darkest Parisian Abbeys, to the revved up finish, this tune stands out as one of The Herberts best, and set them atop the French scene in the early to mid 90’s. An excellent example of that esoteric French sound that placed said country at the top of the heap as far as consistently classic oi! bands are concerned. Exquis!

Retaliator – “Patriotic Alcoholics.” Patriotic Alcoholics ep. 2001. A band that, for me, got increasing more talented over the course of their existence. Started out a touch too metal-ish for my tastes (though I still enjoyed them) but quickly developed into one of the harder, better British bands of the last 20 years. I debated between this one and a few others (“Give Us Back St. George’s Day” is another fave) but settled on this as the tune which merited inclusion. It is no doubt one of the truest statements of British oi! in some time. From slow, ominous bass intro, to it’s hard as nails chorus, this one delivers in spades.

Retaliator

Retaliator

Tommy and the Terrors. “On the Run.” On the Run ep. 2002. T&TT have long been a favorite of mine – the house band of the Boston “street” scene, they have accumulated a fair body of work over the years. They’ve written their share of what I’d consider scene classics, but none yet have surpassed what I feel to be their gem. From the “way before the recent zombie trend” undead subject matter, to the intractable flow of the song, to a ringing guitar sound that Big Star would be proud of, this one is simply untouchable.

Niblick Henbane. “How It Goes.” Go Away. 2001. Ah, NJ’s finest sons! IMHO, this album is in and among the contenders for the best American oi! record. This song encapsulates what I really dig about them –  a great sound, a sense of humorous near apathy, all wrapped up in compulsory, head-nod inducing playing that really made them stand out. Catchy and roughshot at the same time, the gravelley vocals mix with a near Undertones-like sense of melody. This album is full of hits, and it was tough to pick between this, the title track, “Happy Happy Oi! Oi!” and most of the rest of the album, including the Blondie cover. Classic from start to finish.

The Lovely Lads – “Out in the Rain.” The Best You’ve Got. 2006. A group that disbanded far before their time, but made their mark while they were able. This tune mixes the sound of mid period Skrewdriver with it’s own Boston swagger, and the results are a stunning tune. The lyrics are beyond the normal scope of  ‘oi! the subject matter,’ and the whole thing demands to be noticed; the musicianship is top notch, and the vocals some of the best the scene has ever been graced with.

Baker’s Dozen. “House of Fools.” The Storm of Discontent. 2005. Another old-style, hard British oi! band that really delivered on many fronts. With this tune, which I feel to be their finest, they come across with a political statement that is neither clumsy nor a facsimile of what had come before, complete with call-and-response style vocals, and amazingly catchy musicianship.

The Reducers S.F. “Don’t Like You” Don’t Like You ep. 1998. The Reducers SF came onto the San Francisco scene playing melodic punk rock a la Chelsea and Cock Sparrer, with touches of pub rock thrown in as well, and immediately rose to the top of the pile. The title track to this ep remains for me their top moment, and among the top songs the San Francisco oi! scene ever produced. The time honored theme of basing a tune around the dislike of an unnamed someone, combined with the catchy guitar line, and big chorus make this one a clear stand out of the last 15 years.

glen

Glen/Reducers SF

PART 2 of this list coming sooner-than-later. aka: To be continued as soon as I get the energy to chuck out ten more entries…….