Crophead record roundup #6

Reconquesta: Valors Perduts LP

The eagle has landed. About time too, we’ve been waiting for months on end. Ladies and gentlemen, the second Reconquesta album is here.

“Judges of Oi always bore me”, sneers frontman Romani in ‘Real, dirty and raw’, the album’s sole English-language song. Yet here I am clothed in my righteous robe, a judge of Oi passing verdict. To be honest, ‘Real Dirty and Raw’ had to grow on me when an early version went up on YouTube last June. I get the lyrical sentiment: the band doesn’t like inoffensive pop Oi. But I wasn’t sure the alternative had to sound like early 90s Böhse Onkelz covering ‘High Voltage’ by AC/DC. To my taste, this felt too much like muscle-flexing and not enough like punching.

Reconquesta had the balance between punk, rock ‘n’ roll and romanticism just right on their split EP with Codi de Silenci a few months earlier, and I was hoping the album would not collapse under metal overkill. It’s not that I hate metal, it’s just that nine times out of ten, it pans out very badly when punk or Oi bands try playing it.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, sky, cloud, outdoor and natureBut even though the sound is a tad heavier than I would have preferred, my worries turned out to be largely unfounded. For one, the guitars are played with style and imagination. There’s no pointless widdling here – every note sits right, every guitar line tells a story. The instrumental at the beginning of ‘El Conqueridor’ sums it up best – I’m reminded of mid-80s Test Tube Babies and Social Distortion circa Prison Bound with a shot of viking rock, which is also true for the leads in ‘Valor Perduts’. If we were to trace back the genealogy of these guitar themes, I suspect we’d ultimately find the origins in instrumental surf.

So what makes this music ‘skinhead’? Well, there are still a few straightforward Oi belters harking back to the first album. Then there’s a distinct attitude to Romani’s vocals, which are rough, forceful and domineering but never overdone to the point of sounding ‘cookie monster’. What’s more, the Catalan romantic nationalism of the lyrics informs the feel of the music – i.e. there are wistful and dramatic overtones underneath all the aggression. Despite their 80s-90s influences, it’s fair to say that Reconquesta have succeeded in creating a contemporary type of skinhead rock that tells you what it means to be a croptop in Catalonia today.

Image result for reconquesta oi bandSome of the lyrics reference historical figures such as King James the Conqueror, who I understand was important for the emergence of Catalan national identity. To be frank, I’m not into kings, queens or emperors at all, although certain knights and nobles such as Florian Geyer and Jarosław Dąbrowski count among my heroes. Either way, the values outlined in ‘Valors Perduts’ comprise an ethos worth aspiring to, whatever your cause: “loyalty, honour and pride”.

Finally, there’s the Rabauken cover ‘Moments de la vida’, originally called ‘Momente im Leben’. It’s one of those instances where the copy beats the original. Last summer, I was blasting a live recording of this every single day, and right now the studio version feels like the greatest fucking Oi song ever. Screw it, I even like ‘Real dirty and raw’ now. Killer album, 11 out of 10.
Matt Crombieboy

Vis Vires: The Wolves EP

Storming skinhead rock ‘n’ roll with a heavy metal vibe from members of Templars and Hardknocks. Powerful, angry, snarling and plain nasty. Glorious metal guitars collide with dark basslines in truly memorable tunes. While I’m a fan of both Templars and Hardknocks, this is better than anything either of them have done. At times, it verges on brickwall in terms of sheer power but never quite crosses into it, probably because the songwriting is much stronger than most stuff associated with that subgenre. Also, you don’t find Maidenesque guitar like this on releases by Concrete Elite or Razorblade. To me, this is sheer perfection.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Stigmatism: s/t EP

Some cracking Oi flavoured hardcore here. A more anthemic Victim in Pain era Agnostic Front is the obvious point of comparison regarding song length and construction. Guitar sound is pure Vinnie Stigma too, and I’m guessing their name is a tribute to the NYHC legend. Fairly typical US skinhead themes explored, and it’s certainly not the most original release of all time (mind you, who is truly original these days?). Loadsa power and aggression, though, done to perfection and with a big heart. Well worth checking out.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Gonna Get Yours: A Thousand Faces

Once again, a classic release from a Parisian Oi band. While the early UK Oi groups were the reason I fell in love with the genre, in recent years it’s been the French scene that’s fired my imagination and rekindled my love of a scene that was in danger of going a bit naff. Indeed, many of the recent releases have even bettered the efforts of those early British Oi groups, something I thought impossible. This is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Somewhat Blitz-ish with hints of a few of the other No Future greats thrown in too. This is powerful, hard-hitting punk rock with some incredible guitar work. Aggressive and in your face, with brilliant melodies and anthemic choruses. Inspiring, positive, feelgood Oi Oi music.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Berzerker Boys: MLP

Dungeons and Dragons themed Oi from down under. When I saw titles like ‘Blood Sacrifice’ and ‘Hail the Raven’ I feared some dodgy blood & honour shit, but this lot seem more to be a somewhat nerdy bunch with an interest in fantasy and mythology. Although touted as an Oi band sonically, this is as much influenced by hardcore and old school ‘evvy metal. Some of it reminded me a little of old UK band Angel Witch jamming with Aussie Oi-core nutters Reckless Aggression. Some other comparisons would be 86 Mentality, Venom’s punkier moments and Motörhead. I absolutely loved this. Great musicianship, loads of power and aggression and singalong choruses.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Kronstadt: s/t LP

Awesome dark, anarcho-influenced streetpunk from this French band. To be honest, I don’t know much about ’em, though I believe there was a French band of the same name active in the 80s. Is this is a rebooted line up or an entirely different band? Either way, it’s a brilliant release in the vein of what I like to call Oi noir. Think bands like Syndrome 81, Litovsk or Prisoners By Choice, and you’ve got the picture. Or failing that, Blitz jamming with The Mob or one of the 80s proto-goth/positive-punk bands. Powerful fists in the air stuff with dark, danceable melodies underlying the power and anger. There are some absolute gems like ‘Années de plomb’ and ‘NLK’. Essential stuff.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Glassed: s/t Cassette EP

Some nice bloke from Hamilton, Canada sent me this tape a while ago. I love cassettes, but my Akai ghetto blaster is still at the repair centre, so I have to make do with the Bandcamp digital release for now. This is straightforward, trashy, aggressive Oi/punk that doesn’t sound a million miles away from Oi Polloi circa ‘Resist the Atomic Menace’ EP. The themes are more basic, however, as is evident in vintage song titles such as ‘Low Life’, ‘Antisocial’ and ‘A.C.A.B’ (any idea what that stands for?) The whole thing is almost like the Oi equivalent of 90s ultra lo-fi garage punk – i.e. everything reduced to its bare bones and probably quite annoying to people who aren’t already Rixe fans. Booze n’ Glory kids won’t like it, nor will elderly folk who like a good old Morris dance at the local ‘Real Oi’ night.
The follow-up tape III contains more of the same. It’s all good, but now that we know what they sound like they’ll need to come up with some new ideas for the next release.
Matt Crombieboy

Litovsk: Dispossessed LP

If you’re a fan of punk and Oi music and you’ve not come across these guys you should be hanging your head in shame. Along with Syndrome 81 and Traitre, they were among a number of excellent French groups to emerge in the last few years, channelling the spirit of Blitz. This time around, there’s a marked shift in sound, and for my money, its a most welcome one that showcases how far they’ve come sonically. This is a much more melodic, melancholic affair that has a lot in common with early 80s indie like The Cure and dark melodic punk like Scots anarchos Political Asylum or more recent bands like Zone Infinite. A truly awesome release. A million miles from skinhead Oi but a punk masterpiece. [I don’t get Litovsk. I know everyone loves them, so they must be good. But isn’t the guy just whinging his way through fairly mediocre songs? – Crombieboy]
Abdul Bleach Boy

Blood Pressure: Surrounded MLP

Angry old-school hardcore. As with Stigmatism, there’s a definite Oi influence and the feel of early bands like Agnostic Front, Warzone and Negative Approach. On occasions, it reminded me of a faster version of No Time jamming with the Wretched Ones. There are some killer guitar work and strong tunes underneath all the angry thrashing. Certainly pleasing for fans of the genre and fun, but unlikely to change the course of history.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Lebel: Passe l’assaut demo

Rough and ready french Oi on HoM records. The band’s debut outing and a decent effort at that too. Has the classic and somewhat basic (though none the worse for it) French streetpunk sound of bands such as RAS or The Herberts. They’re unlikely to set the scene on fire just yet, but this is fine stuff, and there’s some good songs, big choruses and definite potential in there. I’ll be interested to hear from them again.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Bronco Libre: s/t LP

Full-length from this Franco-Prussian group. This lot play French language punk rock and tuneful hardcore in the vein of Youth Avoiders, Short Days or Stalled Minds. If you’re not familiar with those groups, think classic US punk bands like The Dicks or Husker Du or UK bands such as HDQ. I’m a huge fan of this sound, and this lot are one of the best I’ve come across lately. There are some genuine classics here like ‘Oiseau Perdu’ and ‘L’ecole de la mort’. Its got that dark melody and gothic undertone you associate with the French scene and the choppy guitar sound reminiscent of the above bands. Glorious stuff and one of my faves this roundup. Not skinhead moonstomping by a long way’, but the more musically eclectic among you should love this.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Condor: Cassette single 2

Featuring members of the mighty Rixe, Condor burst onto the scene last year with a storming powerful cassette single. This time around, it’s still intense, blistering melodic hardcore with a pronounced Oi accent, but perhaps toned down a notch, more melodic and a bit more restrained. Rixe would be a point of reference, also old Mackem hardcore punks HDQ and hints of Blaggers ITA at their hardest (think ‘ Ten Men Dead’, for example). Another excellent release in what’s been a truly outstanding last few months for punk and Oi.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Grabuge: Perdu D’Avance MLP

More French Oi/streetpunk here in the same excellent vein of Kronstadt and Gonna Get Yours. Again, dark melodies and loud guitars collide in a corking Gallic cacophony of sound and fury. Some great bass lines, drum work and cracking stomp-along choruses too.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Rat Cage: Blood In Your Boots EP

Raging UK hardcore here, but with some very strong songs and melody underneath it all. The press blurb mentions Totalitär and other Swedes like Disarm, who I’m totally unfamiliar with. I suppose my nearest point of reference is Discharge, as well as modern UKHC luminaries like Arms Race and Violent Society. In fact, it reminds me of those last two bands if they were coming from a more crust influence as opposed to East Coast HC. Some incredible guitar work too.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Force Majeure: Promo tape

More from Canadian Oi’s most prolific musician here, namely Karl St Pierre, perhaps best known to readers in the UK for Last Crusade. Since then, he has played in a number of excellent Canadian outfits, mainly in a rough and ready Templars vein. I was a tad disappointed on first listen as I felt it wasn’t quite as good as their excellent demo released earlier in the year. On further listening, it’s definitely a grower, though. Again, the Templars are a good reference point, as are 90s French Oi outfits such as The Herberts and Anti Patik. It’s powerful and tuneful, with some great almost R&B style guitar. Oh, and there’s a Warrior Kids cover, so what more do you want?
Abdul Bleach Boy

Rogue Trooper: Class Decline MLP

Following on from a promising demo from this American band is this release, their vinyl debut. Damn fine stuff it is too. In the vein of fellow US bands like No Time, though less brickwall, or Lethal Dose this is fist-pumping, anthemic, socially conscious Oi with a twist of hardcore and done with lots of heart. Some great songs here like the title track or ‘Rebel without A Job’. In fact, it’s all killer no filler. Manages to sound classic while retaining its own uniqueness. Highly recommended.
Abdul Bleach Boy

Lingua Franca: Au pied du mur Demo.

Karl St Pierre must be the busiest man in Canada. Another new Oi Outfit from the man who brought us Force Majeure, Hard Pressed and City Ground. Again, it’s rough, ready and distorted Oi! with great tunes and shout-out choruses, yet on this occasion more ‘noir’  than his other outfits. There are definite hints of newer bands like Beton Arme and Ibrahim et les Dompteurs des Tigres in this, and I think the band includes members of the latter. Dark, menacing, and not at all nice (in a good way). Another excellent release.
Abdul Bleach Boy

The Elite: Demo

These are NOT the dodgy 80s boneheads who provided members for Skrewydriver, nor is it the 90s pop Oi band featuring Daryl from Argy Bargy and Cock Sparrer. These hail from Buffalo, New York and play mid-tempo rock/Oi with raucous female vocals. Reminds me a lot of the excellent Petite from Portland, who play a similar brand of melodic, verging on snotty punk with quasi-pop sensibilities. Songs are basic and short but memorable and punchy. Some great basslines too. I really enjoyed this, and it improves on each listen. Will not set the world on fire, but deserves to be heard more widely than it likely will.
Abdul Bleach Boy

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