This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to…The Oppressed. March 4, 2017Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Some may have noticed that I’m partial to a bit of Oi! Angelic Upstarts and others have been mentioned in this slot. Indeed of all the offshoots of punk it is probably the one I like best. I’m not quite sure about why. I think it’s the fact that the accents are working class English and the sheer drive of the music. Just as metal came after rock and in a way boiled it down to its constituent elements, so Oi seems to do something similar to punk. Fair enough, not a lot of boiling required. And it was a reaction to how the first and second waves of punk broke – a reaction that was much more clearly positioned in the working class.
And perhaps consequently Oi is interesting in and of itself because of how heavily – sometimes problematically – politicised it was. While a small number of bands were equivocal or in some infamous instances worse about fascism and unfortunately gigs, particularly early on, were marred by the appearance of NF supporters, the number of groups who took a strongly anti-fascist line is notable. The Burial, Angelic Upstarts themselves, The Business, and The Oppressed, the last perhaps the group most clearly aligned with AFA and SHARP, particularly through their singer Roddy Moreno.
Equally notable is how say, members of parties like Militant crop up – the Burial springs to mind, or the number of groups who would grace the pages of Red Action publications (years later in the mid 2010s the Socialist Party would send condolences on the death of Colin McQuillan who was both a UNISON shop steward and lead singer in Belfast Oi band Runnin’ Riot). Or how many of the groups played AFA concerts.
But then there was a commonality of approach with groups like Red Action who in a way discarded many of the tropes of the left in favour of a focus on the working class as it was (I’m no fan of Garry Bushell but he wasn’t wrong about that). It’s difficult not to listen to Oi and get some sense of the constraints of working class life in the 1970s and parts of the 1980s. And for any of us growing up in working class urban centres in Ireland during much the same period there is much that is familiar.
The Oppressed were from Wales and what’s that, why it’s a drum machine on their first album. Yet there’s something about the clattering of that drum machine that reminds me of what Big Black were doing some years later. There’s an odd smearing of the guitar riffs that is a bit post punk but perhaps is an artefact of the recording process. And the vocals, a cry of rage at the world. It’s all here. Won’t Leave Me Alone, Violent Society, Urban Soldiers, Chaos. If you can’t find a chorus to sing along with in all this I’d be surprised.
Throw in almost post-punk like basslines and there’s something going on here that is genuinely riveting. Some of their members were just out of prison when they started up and there’s a visceral antagonism to the state.They’re still gigging and perhaps no surprise there.
We’re the Oppressed
Leave Me Alone
Fuck Fascism (1995)