Album Review: Various Artists - Oi! Ain't Dead 8 - Chaos In Nederland
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
This latest compilation of Oi! and Streetpunk focuses on the Dutch scene with nineteen tracks from fifteen of the country’s most aggy artists. On the surface of it Oi!, like Grind in metal, can be perceived as being one-dimensional, with its reliance on short songs, basic structures and supposedly simplistic subject matter; “Nursery rhymes for hooligans” as the ex-wife of someone I know once described it.
Dig a little deeper and here is the soundtrack for a generation of disaffected youths, predominantly from the inner-cities and born in a time of social and political upheaval. There is something primal about the sound of Oi! that connects with the sub-conscious, in the same manner that Northern Soul’s four-four rhythms had a sub-culture dancing for hours at Wigan Casino, so the catchy riffs and riotous vocals encourage the Skinhead to move.
I think it pertinent here to remind us of the difference between the mainstream Skinhead culture and the extreme side of it, termed within the scene as Boneheads. For the most part, Oi! is a music of the streets, aimed at directionless working class youths and it unapologetically reflects that in its sound.
While all bands here fall within the purview of the definition of Oi! there is a split between the more punk-centric bands and the harder and heavier ones. Kicking things off are On the Rampage with Breaking Free, which comes in with a mid-paced buzzing guitar before dropping into a capital stomp. Here you’ll find a blueprint for how Oi! should be done: simplistic riffs, prominent basslines and instantly memorable vocals. All of which should be referential to the lives of the listener.
The Reapers, Day Drinker and Shortcuts follow this methodology and deliver pit-baiting tunes that will make you shout your heart out, pump your fist and stomp around with a bunch of your mates. Complaint’s No One Likes Us reminds me of Gimp Fist, as does One Voice, although they did release a split with the North East crew which might account for it. Both Subrockers and The Young Ones have their punk rock hearts beating throughout the use of clean guitars and a big solo.
On the other hand, Oi! can move away from its punk roots and look toward a more Metal framework, as evidenced by Stealers, Malad and Armistice; crunching riffs and dirty guitar sounds, with the latter having more than a hint of the legendary Motörhead. Diamond Dogs’ City Boys borrows from UK82 bands like GBH and Anti-Nowhere League and Live by the Sword could be said to have taken a leaf out of fellow Dutch band, Dischargers’ playbook by crossing Oi! with Power Metal.
Three bands have been afforded two songs each by the curators of this compilation. Bulbar’s Safe for Tourists and Liquor Store are full of fat chugging guitars and classic gang vocals; Bent Out of Shape – the only band with whom I was familiar before listening to this collection – borrow from Cock Sparrer on Sound of Sirens and City Riot have a genuinely aggressive feel and pummelling delivery on both Oi! At the Pub and the Last Resort-inspired A Way of Life.
Of the many and varied sub-genres of the Punk scene, Oi! is my favourite. I loves me some Discharge, I loves me some Exploited, but if I’m feeling in a punk mood and need to slake my aggy-side, I’m reaching for Sparrer, Last Resort or any of those other era-defining bands who never got the credit they deserved.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to slip into my Fred Perry, lace up my DMs and grab my Harrington – Shock Troops is calling.