For the most part, the original wave of English punk bands that managed to stay together matured fairly quickly, evolving from fast, simple three chord tunes to songs influenced by different musical styles and genres. While this made for some groundbreaking music, the little brothers and sisters of the ’77 revolution missed the simplicity, the directness, the aggro of the early punk sound. Taking things back to the basics, a new wave of bands birthed the oi scene, keeping music simple, catchy, and loaded with singalong choruses perfect for chanting at pubs or football stadiums or wherever else working class Brits tended to gather.
The appeal of this direct, no-frills music lead to oi/streetpunk bands popping up everywhere from America to Japan for the next 40 years or so. When done right, the genre is an exhilarating, life-affirming shot in the arm. When not done well, streetpunk can be cartoony and cliched.
Luckily, Grade 2 gets it right on their new album Graveyard Island. Hailing from the Isle of Wight, Grade 2 are young enough to have had parents in the second or third wave of British streetpunk/oi, but have obviously attacked their studies with passion.
The twelve songs on Graveyard Island are heavily influenced by the first wave of oi bands, with a strong Cock Sparrer influence in the vocals. “Look Up” recalls ’70s glam, even tossing in a languid horn solo, which is about as complicated as things get. The band has the usual complaints (small-towns, yesterday’s heroes wasting away at the pub), as well as some contemporary topics, like the rise of the surveillance state, but with songs as instantly catchy as “Tired of It” or “Murder Island,” they could be singing a restaurant menu and still catch on.
Production is handled by Tim Armstrong, and the album sounds great – simple and direct, matching the songs perfectly. With this collection of uncomplicated, aggressive punk catchy enough to cause earworms on a first listen, Grade 2’s Graveyard Island is a welcome addition to the legions of streetpunk/oi albums. Hopefully they never mature.