I am not the most qualified reviewer when it comes to modern-day Oi! music. Yes, I am familiar with the genre in general—I still spin The 4 Skins, The Business, The Oppressed, Blitz, or Sham 69 from time to time, and Cock Sparrer is the one band that has never been deleted from any of my iPods—but for the most part, I’ve been largely dismissive of anything current. In the mid to late ‘90s—around the same time I sported a bomber jacket and a suedehead cut—I curated a series of mixtapes called I Don’t Know Anything About Punk…or Hardcore…or Ska…or Oi!, so, yeah, I’ve been claiming to not know anything about the genre for a long time. But it couldn’t be any truer today, as a quick audit of my music collection shows I dipped out on contemporary Oi! or streetpunk, as it were, sometime around The Dropkick Murphys’ Sing Loud, Sing Proud album in ’01. In the interest of full disclosure (and with all due respect to the late Bruce Roehrs, whose column in Maximum Rock’N’Roll was one of my favorites,) I find most present-day Oi! to be nauseating and imprudent. So with that being said, I’ll ignore my savant-like urge to list every skinhead band that has “broken” or “heroes” in their name (137) and plow forward the best I can here with hopes that it doesn’t result in a boot party on my cranium.
Having existed in one form or another since the early ‘90s, the New York/New Jersey-based skins in Broken Heroes want to make one thing crystal clear: they are not a streetpunk band—they are an Oi! band. The idea being the term "streetpunk" is for bands that are afraid to call themselves Oi! because of the skinhead stigma attached to it. Hence, they named their new album This is Oi! And to further my point, these are the first lyrics from the title track and album opener: “I remember those days when ‘streetpunk’ wasn’t a word they used/We all knew we were crucified—stood up to the abuse/Don’t need to sugar-coat it—this is music from the streets/This is Oi!—we play it loud—our style can’t be beat/THIS IS OI!” The song, much like the rest of record is a testimony that nothing much, if anything at all, has changed when it comes to Oi! music. Familiar themes run throughout the eleven songs that make up This is Oi!: being a skinhead, storming the streets, being crucified, having working class pride, being a heavy drinker, and screaming “OI!, OI!, OI!” a bunch of times.
Musically speaking, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect too: hard-driving and palatable punk-tinged rock-n-roll, with gruff-throated lead vocals that show the wear of years spent smoking cigarettes and/or pouring back bourbon, and topped off with melodic gang-style sing-a-longs. The production value is on the cleaner side of things, allowing for some guitar intros and soloing reminiscent of late-period Social Distortion, or Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards—a comparison that would no-doubt infuriate the members the band, but isn’t any less accurate. I don’t really see myself listening to this many more times, but on the upside I am psyched to pull out my old Bruisers and Ducky Boys records and the Caught in the Cyclone Oi! and I’ve Got My Friends: Boston/SanFran comps again. And with that, I shall now cover up and take my beating.
4.0 / 10
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