For every fifteen bonehead/retread oi/streetpunk bands, there’s usually a couple that aren’t embarrassing to listen to in mixed company, who go beyond the “we’re from the streets and we like to drink” cul-de-sac of musical inspiration. The Brassknuckle Boys, The GC5, Wednesday Night Heroes, and The Boils come immediately to mind. I’m going to have to add Sweden’s Down and Away to that list. (Smalltown’s already on it.) As with hardcore, the challenge in oi isn’t in stretching its boundaries, but reinvesting in its authenticity, updating its membership, and playing songs that aren’t merely to be played over the gravesites of dead greats, but something that sounds like a buzzsaw cutting down the house of history. Down and Away’s songs are on par with the top terrace of bands currently playing this style. Smalltown could be poised for a breakout. It’s been ages since I thought that early Stiff Little Fingers could be toppled on its own terms and Smalltown’s creeping up to the greatness of “Alternative Ulster.” Their cut on this split, “Changes,” just puts one more poker chip on the top of the pile I’m hoarding to bet they’ll be a lot of people’s favorite band in the upcoming year. Flawless track.
–todd (Broken Bones)