SHAM 69: Tell Us the Truth / That’s Life / The Adventures of Hersham Boys / The Game: CDs

After the Ramones and the Clash, Sham is easily one of the most influential bands to come out of punk rock. From them one can trace most, if not all, strains of oi and what is now called “street punk.” Not only can those influential seeds can be heard scattered throughout their four original releases, one can also track the band’s progression from rudimentary musicians to more accomplished songsmiths. Their first, Tell Us the Truth, is pure minimalist thud-punk—angry, violent, outraged. A number of their better known songs—“Borstal Breakout,” “Hey Little Rich Boy,” “Ulster,” and “Rip Off” to name a few—can be found here, as well as their most direct working class attacks on a power structure that favors the more affluent, which is interesting to note considering the decidedly reactionary bent of many of the bands that followed in their wake. That’s Life, while essentially following along the same lines as its predecessor, experiments a little with the template, adding occasional keys to the songs and spoken bits between tracks. Hersham Boys, progresses things along even further, and by The Game—paradoxically the band’s worst selling album—the songs are finely honed missiles, providing the band’s unpretentious beginnings a fine craftsman’s sheen without sacrificing a whit of power or anger. Spread out over the four discs are twenty-nine bonus tracks culled from assorted demos, singles, and EPs for a more comprehensive collection of what remains Sham’s finest years.

 –jimmy (Captain Oi)