Music Reviews

The United States of American Oi!

Various Artists


Replete with themes of working class politics, American pride (which at times tiptoes the fine line between patriotism and nationalism creating an unsettling tension) and aggro, The United States of American Oi! is woefully predictable. At times this album is outright tacky, as Niblick Hedbane proves with “America,” which tritely begins with an interpolation of “The Star-Spangled Banner”: “America, America/Even though we’re flawed, we’re still the best.” At other moments the ignorance so often associated with Oi! music is corroborated, “Watching those hippies and these dumb dykes burning our flag like they don’t care/But that to us, it wasn’t fair . . . Don’t you burn our flag, these colors will not run.” One would think Oxblood could be a little less clichéd. There are a few moments of clarity buried deep in this album. While still being proud, and a bit prosaic, United We Stand at least begins to ask somewhat intelligent (relatively speaking) questions: “What happened to my rights and liberties. . .They will try to take our rights/Well they ain’t getting shit without a fight.”

The music that lays down the fabric over which the above mentioned ideology is professed is pretty much the stereotypical Oi! sound: crisp guitars influenced by ’70s punk with hints of ’50s rockabilly and marching drum cadences. The message is repeatedly delivered by deep, raspy vocals that echo the consternation of the working class. More or less, it is testosterone fueled music to which to fight and drink. There are, however, a few exceptions. D-Caf and the Fort Knox Crew’s “Can You Dig It,” a hip hop track that avows Oi! is just as much an ideological concept as it is a specific sound. Oi The Anonymous’s “Heroes And Zeroes” offers a poignant glimpse into disillusionment of the working-class, via spoken word: “Once there stood acres of factories, but now it’s rusted metal and dirt/Once there worked proud families, now they nurture only hurt . . . None of our leaders has a plan, because none of you people give a damn for the American working man.” In the context of this album, these tracks are anomalies.

There is no doubt that the working class needs an honest voice to articulate their shared sense of frustration. Oi! music has often provided this power of sincerity and solidarity. Yet, it has often also proven divisive, failing to recognize similar struggles across racial, ethnic and gender lines. For the most part, The United States of American Oi! confutes the form’s seemingly inherent ignorance and banality through recycled themes and music structures, highlighting problems but offering no solutions.

GMM Records:

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