Album Review: The 4 Skins – The Good, The Bad & The 4 Skins

The 4 Skins

Album Review: The 4 Skins – The Good, The Bad & The 4 Skins
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Captain Oi!, the Punk branch of Cherry Red Records, continue their project of reissuing seminal albums from some of the genre’s most important acts. For this release, attention turns to London Street Punks, the always-smile inducingly titled, The 4-Skins.

Between their inception in 1979 and their break-up in 1984, the East End Oi! band, went through a dozen members, with only Tom McCourt, remaining a constant throughout this period. Originally playing the guitar Hoxton Tom, as he would become known, had graduated to the bass by the time the band’s debut album was released in 1982.

Strangely, The Good, The Bad and The 4-Skins was issued with the first side composed of seven original tracks and the flip-side containing seven live tunes and an additional studio cut.

Side A opens with something of a surprise in the form of Plastic Gangsters, an unexpectedly upbeat and, dare I say, jaunty tune, the vocals of which were provided by one-time band drummer and later manager, Gary Hitchcock. The wry observations of East End characters are continued on Jack the Lad, but the music is far more aggressive by this point.

Those rougher production values and snottier attitude are evident on the likes of Jealousy, the driving Justice and the somewhat melodic Yesterday’s Heroes. No self-respecting punk band of the era was going to ignore the political elephants in the room and listening to Remembrance Day and Manifesto, you get the sound of the early Eighties, raging against issues that we still face today.

Album Review: The 4 Skins – The Good, The Bad & The 4 Skins

Side B is made up of live tracks, many of which were unrecorded at the time of the album’s release. The likes of Wonderful World, Sorry and Evil sound like the show from which they were recorded was one not to have been missed; 1984 addresses the idea of an incoming Big Brother state – can you imagine? – and I Don’t Wanna Die is reflective of the time when Cold War I still raged and the threat of nuclear annihilation was part of the day-to-day.

Both A.C.A.B and Chaos are genuine Oi! anthems and, along with Wonderful World and Evil, have found their way into The Last Resort’s repertoire over the years. Leaving just the single studio song on side B, One Law For Them, another one that might be rough and ready, but is almost prescient in its continued relevance for the world today.

Of this reissue’s bonus content, Captain Oi! have been their usual generous selves by including nine additional tracks, including the single versions of album tunes, Yesterday’s Heroes and Justice, and the later single, Low Life. Also classified in the Rough and Ready category can be found the low-fi Get Out of My Life, Bread or Blood, Norman and Seems to Me which, despite their unrefined nature, are brimming with the sort of energy associated with the genre.

Which leaves the two most curious of tunes: Dambusters, a version of the film of the same name’s iconic theme tune, done as a contribution to the Ska Wars compilation of 1995 and issued under the band name JJ Allstars; and finally, a cover of Slade’s Marry Xmas Everybody, for all you wanted to celebrate a bit early.

Including a lyric booklet which includes plenty of previously unpublished photographs from back at the time of the original photoshoot, this collection is a must for fans who might have been spinning that vinyl copy and need to get updated and those who yearn to relive those glory days of the early Eighties, but without the imminent threat of global Armageddon.

Oh – wait a minute!

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