Archive for the Opinions Category

Bloomington-Normal Hardcore: Semicids, Naked Hippy and beyond….

Posted in Misc, Opinions on June 29, 2011 by Billy Shears

When I was first getting into punk rock & hardcore in the late 80s, there couldn’t have been a bigger influence on me, nor would there ever be, then the folks and bands in the Bloomington-Normal scene. From catching Naked Hippy and drinking at The Gallery, to buying records at Appletree and Mother Murphy’s or any of the other shops that flourished back then, it was what people would refer to as their “salad days,” where every week I was hearing something new and amazing, and was grabbing up classic albums left and right.

One of the bands from that scene (and one that I saw more than a handful of times) was Semicids – an undisputed top band in the area. Always a great show, and always seemingly paired with my personal favorite BNHC band,  Naked Hippy, I often wondered what became of these dudes.

By chance (while looking for a Mediafire of the Naked Hippy LP that I still own but wanted a rip of) I came across this blog entry at Pig State Recon.

Son of a bitch. Not only does he remember fondly Semicids, but he actually interviewed them. “Nostalgia to the point of stomach pangs” is pretty much what transpired when reading the write-up and the interview: mentions of Electric Coffee, The Gallery, and numerous local bands kind of brought everything back in a flood.

Anyone who was remotely interested in Bloomington-Normal punk rock should check out the article, and for those of you that saw some of these bands or shows, it will be a tiny retrospective of the coolest kind.

I still have the demo tape tucked safely away at my house, and still remember those days fondly. Take a look at the interview and check out the MP3s posted for  a little glipmse into one of the bands that made the BNHC what it was.

Thanks for the write up, Pig State Recon. (P.S: if I ever start a band, we’re covering Naked Hippy.)

Trial By Fire

Posted in Misc, Opinions on March 13, 2011 by Billy Shears

Chris Bjorkland. Trial By Fire. From MRR #3. Taken by Jeff Pezzati.

“Just about anyone who saw Trial By Fire live or heard their ultra rare recordings said that they were a special band. Even today people who were part of the scene in 1982/1983 say that Trial By Fire was one of the best bands of the Chicago Punk era.”

I always wondered about this one – with all the re-releases, compilations, shitty demo quality cash-ins being released out there – why hasn’t anyone ever done anything with TRIAL BY FIRE?

TBF was a group active in early 80s Chicago, made up of former STRIKE UNDER members: Chris Bjorkland (who also went on to BLOODSPORT & THE EFFIGIES) Bob Furem & most importanly (in my eyes) Pierre Kezdy (John Effigies brother, and big time NAKED RAYGUN/PEGBOY component.)

From all accounts, and from what I’ve been told by people who WERE there, Trial by Fire were the best band in the city for a time. But what do we have do judge them on? Well, if you’re me, next to nothing.

The You Weren’t There soundtrack includes the seminal “Rocks of Sweden” later covered by Naked Raygun  (available on the All Rise rerelease LP/CD) and one other Raygun cover (from The Last of the Demohicans collection) that cements TBF’s existence, “Giveaway.” This track is as interesting as anything I’ve heard out of Chicago.

Additionally, Arsenal (Santiago Durango of the original Raygun line-up & Pierre Kedzy’s band) covered TBF song(s) on their  Factory Smog is a Sign of Progress ep.

So, for me, TBF exist as NR/Arsenal covers and one singular tune of their own. Why?

One may cite the opinion that tracks have been lost; no one has anything readily available, except for the fact that I have heard there exists a full album that had been recorded but never released from Ruthless Records, as TBF had broken up before its scheduled release date. Also told that a three song demo, as well as live material, is floating around as well.

Whether any of this is true or not, I’m not 100% positive, but I know I’d love to hear these recordings. C’mon. An entire album out there, and SOMEONE can’t release it? I shake my head.

If anyone has any info or any access to any of TBF’s recordings, needless to say, I’d love to hear any of it.

Best of 2010: I Don’t Give Two Fucks About Your Review…

Posted in Opinions on January 13, 2011 by Billy Shears

2010 was kind of blah. It wasn’t shit. It wasn’t amazing. It just kind of was. For me anyway. Whatever. Since I never post anything anymore, I thought I’d wrap up the not posting year by giving a short assessment of my favorite shit of 2010. Without further adieu, here is the BEST OF 2010 according to this stupid blog.

I know I’m missing things – obvious things likely – so if your feelings are hurt, send in your choices and I’ll print ’em up in the upcoming BEST THING I HEARD ALL YEAR 2010 feature.

This picture is the best thing I saw all year. PERIOD.

BEST EP: HAMMER & THE NAILS 12″ Maxi ep

The debut ep from HATN was one of the most anticipated records of 2010, and it did not disappoint. From the  war-drum opening, to the final note, it was an instant classic, leaving in it’s wake all generic “streetpunk” and setting the standard for modern day oi! bands.

Runners up: Tommy & the Terrors “Problem. Reaction. Solution.”, The Templars/New Chords split, The Rival Mob “Hardcore For Hardcore”, Vaccine “Human Hatred”,  Battle Ruins s/t, The Heartbreaks “I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt to Think of You”, Pressure 28 “Spirit of 69”, 45 Adapters “DTAWDD”


BEST RECORD: PAUL WELLER: WAKE UP THE NATION

Runners Up: Len Price 3 “Pictures,” Marching Orders “Days Gone By”, Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”, Manic Street Preachers “Postcards From a Young Man”

Probably not a surprise that Weller gets my nod for Wake Up the Nation. His previous two records, and especially 22 Dreams, were fantastic, but Wake Up the Nation finds Weller re-inspired and  experimenting with styles as he never really has before. This record is closest in spirit to The Jam’s Sound Affects, and just as he did then, when he took inspiration from peers like Wire and Gang of Four, this LP finds Weller at his most modern as well. Collaborations with Kevin Shields  and former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, as well as spiritual guidance by infamous DJ Simon Dine yield the best results of 2010.

Hot on Wake Up the Nation’s heels is Len Price 3’s “Pictures” which is probably the closest approximation the the early years of The Who that I’ve ever heard. Also short-listed, Marching Orders Days Gone By, probably my favorite oi! record of the year, the majestic indie folk of Mumford and Sons debut, and Manic Street Preachers Postcards From a Young Man which kicked out the anthems like it was 1995 again.

 

 

BEST DEMO: Sydney Ducks.

Runner up: Boston Strangler. This shit is seriously good. Boston early 80’s soundalike. Best cut is the last one, which throws a little oi! bent into the game. Not sure what other demos I heard in 2010. But these two are good enough. Waiting for that MFP demo to drop….

Sydney Ducks seemingly came out of nowhere to provide  a burst of much needed originality in a somewhat stagnant scene. At first listen, a Templars-like approach would be a good starting point, but further listens reveal a multi-layered delivery that is all their own, highlighted by guitar sound that owes as much in places to The Beatles and The Jam as it does early Skrewdriver. Eagerly await the first official release by the band. Demo tape coming soon from Rock’n’Roll Disgrace records.

 

 

BEST REISSUE: ORANGE JUICE: COALS TO NEWCASTLE box set

Runners up: Superyob “Aggrophobia” LP, Negative Approach “Friends of No One”, The Jam “Sound Affects”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”

The reissues this year were many, and surprisingly, the quality level on most of them is fairly high. Extra tracks, live sets, live DVDs, demos, are all order of the day on as many bonus discs as one may care to wade through. The Jam’s Sound Affects, Dexy’s Searching For the Young Soul Rebels, Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, Dylan’s Mono box, The Stones Exile on Main St, Bowie’s Station to Station, all were serious contenders for re-issue of the year, but ultimately, Orange Juice’s Coals to Newcastle came out as my favorite. An exhaustive 6 disc set, it covers everything the band did and then some, with requisite DVD included. An underrated band that literally launched the careers of most indie bands, pick up this box set and see where the likes of The Smiths, Franz Ferdinand, The Heartbreaks, etc, got their inspiration from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST BAND: HAMMER & THE NAILS

Runners Up: Paul Weller Movement, Len Price 3, The Rival Mob, 45 Adapters, New Lows, Mumford and Sons, Sydney Ducks et al ad nauseam.

Hammer & the Nails are the best band playing today. The addition of one of only two fans in the world of the second DYS record should make them that much more – ahem – masculine. However, the list of great bands playing today is near endless. From the band everyone loves, Rival Mob to the original bent 45 Adapters come with, to Mumford and Sons,New Lows and Sydney Ducks, pretty much every band I’ve mentioned in any category on this entry is a favorite.

 

 

BEST LIVE ACT: THE LOVELY LADS

Though their esteemed bass player may disagree with my choice, The Lovely Lads reunion set at PLAY IT LOUD II was my favorite single set of 2010. Having never seen them live before, they didn’t disappoint. Brendan is the best singer in the scene. Period. End of. The band sounded suitably tight, and crushed their set that included most everything from their LP as well as covers of Public Enemy and Absurd.  TOPS.

Runner up: THE TROUBLE. PLAY IT LOUD SET(s). Take your pick between day or night set, but the day set had the honor of being first (obviously) so the ‘wow’ factor was in full effect. Band sounded tight as ever, and people went nuts for both sets. The PLAY IT LOUD show was easily the best live event I hit all year. Hat tip to Sound Action, LTD for making it happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEST LABEL: ROCK’N’ROLL DISGRACE. The only brand that matters. ’nuff said. (What can you say, obviously I picked this label.)

Runners up: Painkiller, Triple B, Six Feet Under, Longshot.


Gallagher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSON OF THE YEAR: LIAM GALLAGHER

Runners up: Jimmy Flynn, Robert Belmonte

It was tough to decide between Liam Gallagher, Bob Belmonte and Jimmy Flynn. Liam’s band Beady Eye kicked it with 3 solid tunes (sure, “Bring the Light” gets a little tedious, and “The Roller” is very “Instant Karma”-ish but still…) and he launched a clothing line, PRETTY GREEN that got him the Draper Award for Best Men’s Line. A good year for Gallagher Jr that ultimately trumped Jimmy’s moxy, work ethic, and promotional savvy as well as Bob’s stunningly quality record label and rapist wit. Believe me, if i had to choose personality wise, Liam would come in dead last.

Flynn

Belmonte


Top 50: The DUECE

Posted in Opinions on January 2, 2011 by Billy Shears

Onward and upwards I go. For those of you not following along, I decided to undertake a thankless (and kind of douche-y) blog entry:

Top 50 Oi!/street punk songs of the last 15 Years.

You can find the first entry of my questionable selections below, and here, dear friends, is the second part, which will take me through 20 picks. Oh the humanity.

(I did want to clarify a few points: though there are several bands on this list that could easily have 5-10 songs included, my list is a one-entry-per band thing. And second, because many of you have asked, no this list will not include RAC or it’s more overt brother-in-arms. Sketchy merits of included bands can be debated and debated, but that is beside the point…)

As you were.

Straw Dogs. “Another World.” Another World single. In my opinion, the early to mid 90’s in Britain belonged to Another Man’s Poison and Straw Dogs. Simple as that. Straw Dogs were polar opposites of AMP musically – rather than punchy and melodic, they were more than rough around the edges. In your face, and ploddingly heavy, they were the musical equivalent of being slowly bludgeoned versus being knocked out quickly. It was difficult picking one tune from this time period for this band, as they no doubt have several tunes that merit inclusion on such a list as this, and mine might not be the most popular choice  (today, it was this tune, “Wasted Life” or “Alright Boy”) but on we go. I picked “Another World” because of it’s epic Who-style guitar intro, and then jarringly, it becomes as weighty as anything the band did. A bold political statement wrapped up in smart lyrics, the tune is a nice representation of several of the things that made Straw Dogs top of the heap.

Strong Style. “Akashi.” Akashi ep. Heavy, SSS-styled Japanese oi! Crushing, yet somehow still melodic, SS are a true force of nature, and this song represents them well.

The Hawks. “Waiting on the Time.” Trueforce Official Rules ep. The Hawks are one of my favorite Japanese bands, and this is one of their stronger tunes. Chiswick records sound via Japan. No idea what lyrics they are singing, but the overall sound and tone make this an easy selection for this list.

The Beltones – “Fuck You Anyway” – Ah, the ever elusive Beltones. Likely in my Top 5 BANDS of the Last 15 Years, this outfit put out a few ripping singles, a kind of comp thing on TKO with re-recorded singles (and a few new tunes) and then one LP Cheap Trinkets. It’s tough to pick their best song, as most everything they did is a “best of” but today I’m going with the ultimate kiss off, “Fuck You Anyway.” Part Stiff Little Fingers, part early Skrewdriver, it is angry, frustrated and real. An open message to Bill Beltone: For God’s sake, can you play some shows that aren’t Texas?

The Troublemakers – “Pax Americana” – Pax Americana LP. To this day, this is one of the most original LPs within the scene that I’ve heard. The playing is flawless, and I’m not sure where to begin to descibe its nature. I’m not overly familiar with RIF, but the folk-ish elements at play here lend themselves to the tougher edge the oi!-ish slant delivers. The has been in rotation since I got it, and though the lyrics and politics may be a bit dodgy, I’d have no clue as I don’t speak French.

Alternate Action – “Dead End Street.” Over the years, Canadian oi! bands have been nothing if not esoteric. As with the French (and maybe therein lies the reason, because Canada’s heritage can lay claim to a huge segment of French ancestery) I have always felt that Canadian oi! bands have that something about that that was easily identifiable as “Canadian.” Even when aping other bands, the elements still made them uniquley Canuck. Regardless, Alternate Action come together as seasoned vets of said scene, and having this time under their belts has certainly boded well for Alternate Action. Taking the best of their forebearers in Britain, like Stiff Little Fingers, melded with their own experiences in other bands (like The Subway Thugs, The Lancasters, etc), Alternate Action have emerged as one of the best Canadian oi! bands I’ve yet to hear, in any designated time period.

The Veros – “The Way I Feel” – The Way I Feel ep. Upon hearing Boni, original drummer for classic French heroes Snix was putting together a new band, my expectations were through the roof. Expecting something similar to Snix’s delivery, I was surprised to hear that while elements remained, the bulk of the influence here was British oi! and even modrock. The Way I Feel ep was The Veros (named after the bassist and co-founder, obviously) debut offering, and while they have put out a wealth of great material since, I still feel this is their best tune; maybe it’s because it was the first thing I heard from them, but I have always thought the flow of the song, it’s catchiness, as well as the lyrics (“they don’t know about me!”) were something unique, making the tune deserving of a spot here.

Evil Conduct – “Home Sweet Home” – Home Sweet Home ep. 2009. Consistent and catchy, Evil Conduct deserve a mention for staying true to their vision. This is likely the catchiest thing they ever did, and is one of the genre’s best recent efforts.

Dropkick Murphys – “Barroom Hero.” Dropkick Murphys/Ducky Boys split single. 1996. The introduction to the scene for Dropkick Murphys, this is the first song of theirs I ever heard as well, and what a debut. It’s been tough for them to top. Before they expanded and developed their musical prowess, it was just 4 of them, delivering basic rock’n’roll.

The Wretched Ones – “Going  Down the Bar.” Likewise, I’m pretty sure this is the first WO song I ever heard as well. Who doesn’t like the Wretched Ones? Simple, methodical delivery, catchy as hell, and consistant. the AC/DC of the scene, in that you know what you’re getting every time, but every time it sounds pretty great. This tune got the nod today, but there’s an endless supply to choose from. Almost listed “Nothing Wrong” from this same record. Great tune there as well.

The JAM: Top Ten.

Posted in Opinions, Top Ten on August 23, 2010 by Billy Shears

At this point, this blog has been dead for some time, and lest I turn into Rob O’Connor and just bide my time with this blog by making grocery lists that substitute as content, please cut me some slack, as I am just breaking back into updating, so I’m posting a few basically meaningless things to get back on track. Hence, I apologize for another BEST OF/TOP TEN LISTS type thing, but hey, doing the PIRANHA 3D review below was work enough for a day.

Did Jamaroquai lose his hat?

So THE JAM are probably my favorite band of all time. They are, these days, kind of one of those bands that you have played so often in the past, that they don’t get as many regular spins as they used to. However, since my pimp my ride 2001 VW Golf has only a tape deck in it, and I have a few JAM tapes from back in the day, they are still in fairly regular rotation. So this afternoon, I popped in Greatest Hits and when “In the City” kicks in, it still does it for me.

I kind of quickly thought about my Top Ten JAM tunes of all time. Doing so is really just asking to fail, as ten is far to few to be able to encompass what Weller and co achieved. Regardless, I thought it might be a nice way to get back in the swing of the bog. Sooooo, I present to you, my:

TOP TEN FAVORITE TUNES BY THE JAM. As of today, 8/23/2010.

(In no order, and one should assume this list is always changing, but whatever.)

1. “In the City” – The first song by the band I ever heard, and probably a lot of people’s first exposure to them. GREAT tune, great message (being from outside the “city” of Chicago, I could fully relate) and a riff so good The Pistols stole it for “Holidays in the Sun.” Then Paul hit Sid with a bottle and hospitalized him. All is fair.

2. “Ghosts” – Not sure how this one ranks among fans of the band, but it was really one of the more mellow tunes that really got me into loving the band. Great lyrics, and simple, laid back groove. Really excellent.

3. “Boy About Town” – Nice stab at Revolver meets Northern Soul. Song just propels along, then the horns kick in, etc. Excellent.

4. “Running on the Spot” – Love the whirling intro, and the way the song refuses to stagnate – something about it’s style has made it an all-time favorite.

5. “Going Underground” – The Jam’s first number one and strong contender for my favorite of this Top Ten list. From the classic build-up into the the furious finish, a  kiss off classic, classic, classic.

6. “Saturday’s Kids” – Weller had the same gift as Davies et al to describe ordinary life in extraordinary tunes, this being one that captures being a teenager perfectly. “Saturday’s kids play one arm bandits, they never win, but that’s not the point is it?”

7. “Eton Rifles” – Noel Gallagher said when he first heard this song, he thought the band had no right to be that good. Agreed. A top tune, and I like the fact it doesn’t polarize the factions involved and immediately side with the left wing students involved in this real life fiasco.

8. “Absolute Beginners” – As The Jam progressed, some fans pined for their good ol’ days of straight power-pop and complained about tunes being “boring.” Again, the punch of Northern Soul rears it’s head, and if this tune is boring, then so be it – it’s classic regardless.

9. “Standards” – …buuuuut, if it’s early power pop you dig, then I submit THIS tune as one of their finer efforts, on the critically panned, and now overlooked second album, This is the Modern World. Great ‘us against them’ set up, great WHO-like rave up, great chorus, great all around. (“Life From a Window” is another VERY underrated tune of this record…)

10. “Town Called Malice” – Another strong contender for favorite tune in their catalog, the Motown influence (rip-off?) really sounds great as done by Paul, Bruce and Rick. Perfect mix of soul and punk rock.

10. “Beat Surrender” – Even though I’m over 10 tunes, I have to include their swansong. Bittersweet but upbeat all the way. What a finish. “Bullshit is bullshit, it just goes by different names.”

Realizing that I had to cut a few tunes that are no doubt classics (“That’s Entertainment,” “Down in the Tube Station,” “Tales From the Riverbank,” “Start!” etc, etc) it would be interesting to get some feedback, and give-and-take on this list from other fans of the band.

Anyway, at least it’s another post…..

The Best Thing I Heard All Year

Posted in Opinions on February 10, 2010 by Billy Shears

As 2009 is but a memory, it is time for a re-cap…

When I’ve shamlessly ripped off others ideas in the past, I’ve usually done it discreetly. That has now fallen by the wayside. With this feature – The Best Thing I Heard All Year – I have 100% stolen the idea from MOJO magazine.

I'm always ready to steal an idea

Their idea, and a good one, is to have several enteries by well known musicians/people involved with music, which give a couple examples of the best thing they heard all year. Doesn’t have to be newer stuff (though most of the time it is) but just what the person in question was into in the year previous.

So, I have decided to take that same idea and run with it. Hopefully in time, you will find folks associated with the music scene that this blog promotes, or into music in some of the same respects as myself, and what they feel are the best things they’ve heard all year.

(As of right now, all of the people who agreed to submit, only three have done so. The rest of you douches know who you are, so let’s get your picks submitted so that the other 3 people who follow this blog can see what you have to say. Ugh.)

Regardless, take note, as there is much good music to be discovered in this way. Tally ho.

– BRIAN LOGAN (Terror/Nail/Call(er)/Promoter): London Diehards demos, T.H.U.G. s/t record, and the various mixes on the CRAZEE KIDS SOUND BLOG comps, with lots of pre-punk/oi!/terrace bands like Slade, The Rivals, The Squad, The Jook, The Faces, Skrewdriver, Sweet, Rejects and on and on and on.

– MATT KELLY (Hairdresser’s cousin): 2009 was a year for quality, not quantity.  The RIFLES’ new album “No Love Lost”, as well as their live performance at Great Scott in Boston, the aptly-named T.H.U.G.’s promo CD (which is now available on vinyl through Rock and Roll Disgrace Records), the new album from PLAN OF ATTACK out of Brisbane,  and probably my favorite of ’09 was “Welcome To the Empire Club” by the London outfit THE CONCRETE GODS. 

– BOB BELMONTE (No cred whatsoever/Rock’n’Roll Disgrace Records): Best things I heard/saw/read all year-

1. Dude on the blue line heading to Boston, yelling at some beat welfare oven and her 9 kids to shut the fuck up and tells her to close her legs and get off the system, there is a Dunkin Donuts hiring somewhere.

2. Getting the pre-paid cell phone for the R77 tour and having the rather hefty girl at Wal-Mart bendover to get it at the bottom of the rack, max out any of her bodily functions and just rip the loudest most repungent fart. It sounded like the kickstand kid was lifting wheelies with his 1982 Huffy Moped with no seat thru a mud bog.

3. T.H.U.G. – S/T LP/CD

4. MAMMOTH GRINDER – 12″

5. NEW LOWS taster tape on Painkiller. 3 songs to hold you over till the LP drops. (Awesome cover of Jerry’s Kids – Raise The Curtain)

6. CONCRETE GODS – Welcome To The Empire Club CD

7. THE BOOK OF BASKETBALL – By Bill Simmons (He has turned into Rick Reilly at this point, but this book is a must for any fan of the NBA/Basketball).

8. JUDGEMENT “Live” @ Chaos In Tejas 2009

9. CLOSE CALL “Live” while Jimmy Flynn wore a shawl from some grandmother he purse snatched on the way to the show.

10. LONDON DIEHARDS – Demos

– SATURDAY NIGHT’S PICKS: We were impressed with several things in 2009, from old stand-bys like Naked Raygun returning to form with their Riot Fest 7″, as well as the amazing Madness release The Liberty of Norton Folgate. From excellent oi! courtesey of Evil Conduct & Frankie Flame, to the power pop leanings of Stamford Bridge, to newer stuff such as demos from Boston’s Hammer and the Nails, San Francisco’s Sydney Ducks, as well as demos/debut ep by NYC’s 45 Adapters, to discovering  Richard & Linda Thompson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, it’s been a busy year.

Still on the stereo round our way is Battle Ruins debut ep, Gang of Four’s Damaged Goods ep, Mayer Hawthorne’s A Strange Arrangement LP and Elvis Costello & the Attractions Get Happy LP! Also played alot: Another Sunny Day’s album London Weekend. The choices were many.

However, with gun to head and forced to choose, the best thing we heard all year at this blog would be:

The Concrete Gods. Welcome to the Empire Club

 

Gods of Concrete

Nostalgia is a time honored subject in the rock’n’roll canon. British bands that are afforded classic status – from The Kinks to The Jam, to Madness and Blur – have all made records (and in some cases, careers) that pine for simpler days, whether with a wink and a nudge, or with earnest seriousness. The danger in being swept up in such a tide is complacency. Reminiscing turns to apathy, and that is that; a cycle of repetitive stagnancy and acceptance, with no outlook for the future.

The Concrete Gods latest offering, Welcome to the Empire Club, exists as something far more relevant than blissful nostalgia discussed over a few pints in the new art deco pub. No, this work actually stands as a call to resistance in the face of change for change’s sake; for progress that few see as progressive. While others are simply swept away in the tide of a changing world, The Gods emerge as soldiers of the last bastion willing to stand and put two fingers in the air and say ‘no more.’

To those familiar with The Concrete Gods, the delivery will come as no surprise; a mixture of a shared heritage with bands like aforementioned groups The Jam (the title cut and “Britpop Collector” amongst several others) as well as Slade (“My Old Man”) and mid-period Who (“Will You Stop Dancing?”) The unfolding of the newest offering showcases a band that is simply getting better and better. “Maturing” is a word I’d hesitate to use, but the sound reflects that. Songs need not be top-speed to be angry; they don’t have to be thrashy to voice dissent. Several of the songs are slower tempo, but sacrifice no power.

Built as a near conceptual record, it is as intelligent as any other of the aforementioned groups. The lyrics are smart and avoid simple moaning and groaning. Arguments are formatted and delivered, and grievances aired in an angrier Ray Davies voice. The album includes a perfect choice in cover as well; a reworking of Pulp’s class commentary “Common People,” that seamlessly melds in with the band’s own efforts.

The landscapes of the wayward youth of the band members have all but disappeared, with modern Britain not caring much; The “Boring British Town” of old pushes out its residents, and less and less is afforded to those that built the country. Rather than muse about it wistfully, The Gods have chosen to present their own social critique with aggressive rock’n’roll, complete with a last spit of venom aimed at “those who have conspired.”

The result is this blog’s choice for the best album of 2009. Simple as that.

Here to buy: Rock’n’Roll Disgrace Records.

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.

m008

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…….