by Morgan Coe
From the very beginning, Oi compilations have been a dicey business. Where a grouchy record reviewer might grumble that TKO’s latest sampler is mostly filler, an astute musical historian would point out that Punch Drunk III is merely carrying on the legacy of records like Strength Through Oi and The Oi Of Sex by burying a few decent tracks in a mess of also-rans. Both would, of course, be right.
Punch Drunk III starts off strong with “Better Than A Kick In The Head” by The Beltones, who manage to be from Florida and still sound uncannily like Stiff Little Fingers. Reducers SF contribute a solid track’s worth of gruff, melodic punk rock with nice guitar work. Despite their ridiculously tough name (was “Pickup Truck Full of Your Ex’s Drunken Friends Pulling Up Outside Your House On Valentine’s Day” taken?), Thug Murder manages to combine girly J-pop with the Toy Dolls’ peppy cartoon punk. Bloody Mutants are a tunefully moronic (or is that “moronically tuneful?”) reminder that every classic Oi comp has to have at least a couple of Splodge-style novelty tracks. And, of course, Angelic Upstarts and The Partisans give the new breed a competent run for their dole cheques.
The problem with these label samplers, unfortunately, is that “quantity” always wins the coin toss. On this one, the filler comes in two flavors of vanilla. The most popular is “poppy, UK-style punk”: The Generators, The Forgotten, Sixer, The Stitches, The Class Assassins, Those Unknown, Workin’ Stiffs (was “The Regular Working Class Blokes” taken?), The Riffs (I know “the Riffs” is taken, because they were a British ska band in the ’80s – but all the “streetpunks” know that, right?), Guitar Gangsters, and East Bay Chasers. The lovable underdog here is “tough, U.S.-style punk”: The Bodies, Niblick Henbane, Terminus City (good name, but sadly unable to make “Folsom Prison Blues” better by adding shouting – back to the drawing room, boys), Bonecrusher, Antiseen, Limecell (striking a blow against sexism by writing a song called “Get The Bitch To Do It,” and then making it suck), Electric Frankenstein, and American Pig. In both cases, there isn’t much to get excited about; even the bands that have put out great stuff in the past (Electric Frankenstein, AntiSeen) are phoning it in, and I’m not even going to start on U.S. Bombs‘ incredibly corny “Yer Country,” which sounds like they learned to play “country” by listening to the King of the Hill theme.
This leaves us with one last song: Hard Skin‘s amazing “Down The Pub.” I quote Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “Irony (‘I-r&-nE) -– when the best song on a ‘streetpunk’ compilation is an Oi parody by a total joke band.” (Note to latecomers: Hard Skin are a total joke band.)
(4104 24th St. #103 San Francisco, CA 94114)