First, with a title like "Oi! Sound of UK", what do you expect in terms of content? You are entitled to expect Blitz, the Rejects, The Business, some shitty live recordings of 4-Skins and a demo version of Infa-Riot. You would be very wrong to expect this kind of line-up (and who needs yet another oi compilation anyway) since "Oi! Sound of UK" is actually a late 80's British hardcore compilation and the bands included are very far from boots, braces and hard-looking baldies. In fact, this cd is a reissue of a 1988 Lp compilation entitled "Airstrip One UK". It was released on notorious American hardcore label Mystic Records, probably as a means to promote the British hardcore scene on the other side of the Atlantic. While the original Lp looks quite good and seems to have at least some pictures and contacts, Mystic decided to reissue it changing its name to the pathetic "Oi! Sound of UK" with a fucking Union Jack on the cover and including absolutely no information whatsoever. Inside the "booklet" (assuming a sheet folded in two actually deserves the name that is...), you will only find ads promoting how fucking brilliant Mystic Records is, has been and will be. Not a word about the bands or even the original compilation.
I initially got this cd because I was flabbergasted when I saw what looked like your average dodgy oi compilation (the cover, as you can see, is not ironical in the least) with Deviated Instinct, Napalm Death or Karma Sutra on it (I was less surprised to see Oi Polloi, since, even 30 years after they stopped playing oi music, even 20 years after the "Whale song", a lot of people still think they are a oi band and not an anarchopunk band). I actually had to start a thread on he now defunct Profane Existence message board to ask about that piece of plastic. But anyway... In addition to the original line-up of bands that you can find on "Airstrip one", "Oi! Sound of UK" also contains 8 live songs from the Instigators. I have no idea why, when, how or what for, but here you are. Judging by the songs, this a late 80's live set from the Instigators, a time when they no longer were the catchiest band political band of the North and played rather bland US-influenced sticky melodic hardcore (not really our cup of tea at Terminal Sound Nuisance).
Have I felt deeply ripped off when I received this cd? Do I need to answer this? But enough bitterness and let's have a look at the songs. There are 16 songs and 17 bands (as if the horror wasn't already complete, the Karma Sutra song is split in two on the cd, so it stands on two tracks instead of one). First is Visions of Change, a band I have always enjoyed (not as good as their Depraved era if you ask me although this song sounds exactly like a Depraved song) with a warm, rocking, melodic music and great vocals. A smart band too. Next is Oi Polloi with a song from their - arguably - best period, when they tried to emulate the sound of Antisect, Anti-System, AOA, even Sacrilege. The guitar is distorted and thrashing, you have terrific solos all over the place, harsh, angry vocals with a long anarcho spoken part and a drummer dreaming he is with Discharge during the recording session of "Hear nothing". Cracking song, cracking band. A short live burst of vintage Napalm Death is followed by a too melodic a song from HDQ. I don't dislike HDQ, far from that, and I like tunes in punk-rock but I much prefer Hex because they still kept a distinct anarcho flavour in their blend of hardcore.
Deviated Instinct's "Mechanical extinction" proudly carries the crust banner on the next track. They hardly need an introduction from me as I have already written at great lengths about them in a previous post. Fantastic band and a top song from an excellent recording session (the so-called "Return of frost" third demo from 1987). Next is Offspring. Yes, Offspring. From the UK though but that's all I know about this band. Sonically they remind me of HDQ or Eyes On You, pretty typical of these British bands who tried to emulate a certain American sound but couldn't really help bringing typically British-sounding tunes and song-writing on the table (for my greatest pleasure). Cowboy Killers follow, the craziest Welsh hardcore band with smart, provocative lyrics, a instinctive approach to fast punk music and a distinctive singer who can both sing and sound pissed off. Not bad at all.
The ever-underestimated Decadence Within have their song on this one too, and a really good at that. While I don't enjoy their US crossover period, Decadence Within strikes me as a genuine, honest band that were not the best around but worked hard. Their song sounds a bit transitional as you will find traces of their more traditonnal (and amazing!) anarchopunk sound with the female singer as well as fast and punchy hardcore punk. I strongly recommend getting their double-cd on Boss Tuneage Records and reading Glasper's books. The next song (the two next tracks to be accurate) is the real standout song of this cd to my ears: Karma bloody Sutra. I'll grant you that they should have picked a more decent name but their Lp is everything a real lover of punk is bound to expect from a record: it is original, powerful, there is variety, there are tunes, there are real politics and above all honesty. I have no idea when "Crisis? What crisis?" was recorded but, judging from the pervading postpunk anarcho atmosphere, shortly after the album sounds correct. It is mournful, emotional, you can feel the frustration and the beauty pouring through each notes. It is just perfect.
Next are The Instigators in their not-so-good period. Still a decent song I suppose (the chorus is great) but give me their 1984-85 anytime. I am a bit harsh but when you have recorded songs as good as theirs, it is a bit disheartening to hear what followed them. Ripcord is next and I don't think they need much of an introduction. Famous Boston-influenced hardcore that left a strong mark on the British hardcore scene. They used to cover "Breakout" from Anti-System in their early days and ended up covering Siege, I guess that will give you an idea of what they sound like. The great Dan are next with energetic hardcore punk with a lot of hooks and top female vocals, not unlike A-Heads in a more American hardcore mood. Great band with a top notch double cd discography released on the ever-reliable Boss Tuneage. Eyes On You follows and again, an HDQ-type band to my ears, very tuneful in the American sense of the term.
Next are Autonomy, not the rarest moniker for a punk band and a band I know close to nothing about. The song is a bit sloppy but fits well with the other songs of the compilation: I hear American hardcore, a bit of thrashing here and there and a vocalist who tries to sing in tunes. Not bad but probably slightly anecdotal. Feed Your Head follow and that's more my cup of tea. They have this intensity that you cannot fake and proper tunes as well. Quite a unique band for its time I guess. I am not sure what they really intended to sound like but the addition of some synth at the end of this beefy punk-rock song definitely wins my heart (I must be the exception here, but you cannot change an old Amebix fan like myself!). Then you have another short burst of vintage Napalm Death. Finally, a classic song from the great Civilised Society?, also known as "and what if Chumbawamba had been into early thrash metal?". I have already ranted about CS? in the same post as Deviated Instinct so I won't start again. But they are great, they really are.
A word of conclusion? Don't ever buy this cd.
PS: the original cd was burnt very chaotically as you will hear so that you sometimes have the last seconds of a song overlapping onto the first of the next. Are they taking the piss? Yes, they are, thank you very much. Still, sorry about that but that's the whole point of my demonstration.