Golpe de Gracia: Ustela 12” EP

One thing I don’t like is when the small-scale music industry imitates the big music industry. It’s not the fact that people try to make some money to cover their expenses or pay their bills – that’s ok, we all need to live. The problem starts when everything becomes subordinated to ulterior ends. Oi bands from the continent that should be writing lyrics straight from the heart start to sing in bad English, hoping it will improve their chances of playing the festival circuit. Instead of expressing truthfully how they see the world in which they live, they rehash the most banal cliches they can think of: after all, if you leave it at commonplaces about ‘believing in yourself’ and ‘standing where others fall’ – basically the stuff that Mariah Carey songs are made of, but with gang vocals –, you won’t offend anybody.

Zines and blogs, meanwhile, degenerate into advertisement sheets, uncritically pushing whatever they’re asked to – and their writers basically serve as unpaid music industry interns producing free promotional copy. Speaking of which, congratulations to the hustling musician who sent me a ‘friend’ request, then asked straight away if I was writing for American Oi!  – and ended the conversation when I said I didn’t … He could have at least done his research.

In other words, the bad part about the small-scale music industry imitating the predatory, ruthless, big music industry is that everything – from lyrics to reviews to relations between people – becomes inauthentic and false. It’s heartening, then, to get mail from people who understand exactly what you’re about. Íñigo from Golpe de Gracia has send us a copy of their 12’’ mini-album Ustala because he thinks that we have the “best skinhead subculture publication in English worldwide right now – we learned a hell of a lot from you”. For these folks, then, sending a record to a blog such as ours isn’t just a one-way ‘promo’ process, but also communication. Íñigo thinks we “may well think the record is rubbish and therefore not review it”, though. Nah – the reason why we wouldn’t review something, or only with massive delay, is because we aren’t very professional. But our honour lies in telling you our honest opinion.

Now then. Golpe di Gracia are an Oi punk band made up largely of Basques who live in Madrid. Looking through the artwork of their demos and EPs, the imagery contains quite a bit of twentieth century imagery of soldiers, tanks, and women who look like revolutionaries. – my best guess is that these are pictures of republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Judging by some hints made in an interview for Condenado Fanzine, the band probably lean towards the libertarian left. When discussing their song ‘Muere occidente’, they criticise Europe’s hypocritical facade of Western humanism in light of its treatment of refugees – so far, so good – but then, bizarrely, they say they’re “happy to see the old continent die for good”. Why would anyone want to see their continent die for good? And what exactly do they mean by that? Personally, I’d quite like the opposite to occur: European unity, though on a very different basis than the European Union is prepared to offer, as a first step towards countering the overbearing dominance of the US empire. Then perhaps a bunch of South American countries can join the alliance and we’re talking.

But on to the music. The band play a mostly fast, hard-driving punk that sometimes reminds me of the old New Jersey band Mental Decay, which put out a couple of 7-inches in the golden days of Headache Records, with perhaps a shot of Casualties here and there. It’s angry and forceful and, apart from e.g. ‘Mi final’, where they resemble old Klasse Kriminale, not really Oi at all. The vocalist’s style, too, is more of a punkish scream. Not being a massive fan of hardcore, I prefer when they take a chill pill and slow down a little: ‘4 am’, which closes this EP, is the best song on the record and in my mind the direction they should take in the future: there’s a lot of anger in the other songs, but not enough songwriting. With ‘4 AM’ they’re trying to craft something more memorable that has actual hooks – it’s how they should continue.

Matt Crombieboy

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