Friday, June 03, 2011

Blast from the Past: Cheap Shots and Low Blows, Vol. 1: The TKO Singles 1997-1998

Title:  Cheap Shots and Low Blows, Vol. 1: The TKO Singles 1997-1998 (Amazon, CD Universe, Interpunk, AllMusic)
Artist:  Various Artists

In the late 1990s there was an explosion of bands that were greatly influenced by oi and ‘77 style punk rock.  A number of record labels churned out albums, EPs, and seven inch singles by the likes of The Showcase Showdown, Dropkick Murphys, The Templars, The Ducky Boys, the Anti-Heros, and the Hudson Falcons.  Some of these bands were full blown oi bands (The Templars and Anti-Heros) and some were bands that just happened to love Cock Sparrer and Stiff Little Fingers (The Ducky Boys and Hudson Falcons).  One of the most important scenes of this era was that of the San Francisco Bay Area, the home of arguably the most influential band of the era, the Swingin’ Utters.  You see, the Utters were a band that launched a hundred other bands.  Their 1995 album The Streets of San Francisco, along with Those Unknown’s self-titled debut, was mentioned as an influence by many if not most of the late ‘90s street punk bands. 

One of the premier record labels of this era and scene was the San Francisco based TKO Records (Official, Blog, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter,  Cheap Shots and Low Blows… is a collection of the label’s first nine seven inch singles, many of which I owed at the time.  The collection opens with three of the songs from One Man Army’s Bootlegger’s Son seven inch (this one I still own).  Two of these songs (“Another Dead End Story” and “Never Call It Quits”) appeared on the band’s debut album Dead End Stories while the title track appeared on their sophomore record Last Word Spoken.  Up next is the second TKO release The Fogotten’s Class Separation, the title track for which appeared on the band’s debut album, Veni Vidi Vici.  The Forgotten and One Man Army were both bands that took influence from oi but weren’t afraid to write some incredibly catchy punk rock tunes that you didn’t have to be a skinhead or rude boy to enjoy.  Next are two songs from the Working Stiffs followed by a split with The Templars and Lower Class Brats.  All three bands are beloved by diehard oi/street punk fans but often have a hard time finding those outside of the scene.  Next is the final Dropkick Murphys release with Mike McColgan, a split with American oi legends Anti-Heros.  The DKM tracks include live versions of “Road of the Righteous” and The Clash’s “The Guns of Brixton.”  The Bodies excellent self-titled seven inch is next.  All four songs are top notch, catchy, California punk.  When this EP originally came out I compared it to One Man Army in my review for my zine Caught Off Guard.  The Bodies EP is one of the highlights of this collection.  The Dead End Cruisers’ Friday Nights single is up next.  This band mixed a healthy dose of mod (ala The Who and The Jam) into their punk for the three songs on this EP.  The best of the three is the title track which towards the end busts into “The Boys are Back in Town.”  Fans of The Briefs should check out The Dead End Cruisers.  The Randumbs self-titled EP is next.  This is another one for diehard fans of the scene.  The collection closes with the fantastically brilliant two song self-titled EP by The Truents.  The Truents were the kind of band that could have easily crossed the boundaries between street punk and pop punk, because honestly these two songs are brilliantly rough-edged pop punk numbers. 

Sometime after the turn of the millennium the street punk crazy lost steam and quite a few of the bands suffered from a bit of backlash from fans that wanted nothing to do with anything even remotely related to oi (despite the fact that many of these bands were more than good enough to transcend the subgenres).  TKO Records continued on and released albums by The Forgotten, the Reducers SF, The Bodies, and Sixer before moving their base of operations to Richmond, VA and refocusing on garage rock like Electric Frankenstein and trash rock like AntiSeen.  The label has since returned to CA and opened a record store under the same name.  This collection is an excellent highlight of one labels place in a specific era in music history.  It’s also a great way to get some songs onto CD. 

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