LAWMAKER: All Work, No Class
Release year: 2021
Oi! and working class street punk are forms of music that are often derided as sounding rather samey; someone once made the joke that there are about a dozen oi! albums in the world, just under a hundred different names. Whilst obviously not true, it is undeniably true that regional scenes have always had a strong musical identity in oi!. What I mean is that the French sound is a thing, and Swedish bands definitely have their own sound, and “classic UK oi! oi!” isn’t just an empty phrase. And then there’s US oi!, of course.
Now, obviously, there is a wide variety in the bands from any given country. The Templars certainly don’t sound much like The Bruisers to me, nor does Cock Sparrer sound much like Condemned 84. But you’d have to be pretty dumb, intentionally or not, to say I’m wrong with the above.
Lawmaker, with members from the US and Sweden, is a newcomer to the scene (although the members themselves aren’t). On this, their debut release, they explore a sound that’s definitely rooted in the tradition of US oi! and street punk. It’s kind of hard to point out just what makes a band sound American… maybe it’s in the slightly more rock & roll touch, the fact that like many other US bands, Lawmaker are less brickwall and clumsy that UK classics tended to be, or maybe it’s the accent. But there is something decidedly American in Lawmaker. A certain hard-to-pinpoint kinship whole throng of bands, from legends such as the aforementioned The Bruisers to lesser known bands such as Broken Heroes or, to just throw one random run-of-the-mill US oi! band from the top of my head, Revilers.
If Lawmaker take their cues from the long tradition of US oi! musically, the same can be said of the lyrics. The lyrics of working class life and drudgery, allegiance and love to a nation that turns its back on you despite all your sacrifices, and the pursuit of a weekend of fun as respite from the grind of the 9-to-5, all are pretty standard fare for any oi! band, with a slight US of A twist to them. And a clever wink to Sweden in the title track.
But does it matter if most all of what Lawmaker offers sounds vaguely – or less vaguely – familiar? Not to a dramatic amount, as the release is redeemed by other factors. There’s plenty of anthemic potential in these songs and lyrics. The short EP comprises of a mere four tracks, but all of them display that knack for catchy choruses and lyrical hooks that may not break new ground but will stick in your head. Real future crowd pleasers, I’m willing to bet.
The four tracks on the release all testify that Lawmaker are capable of baking something from the basic recipe of oi! and street punk. Opening track Working Poor is probably the weakest on the release, although I’m betting that “From working class to working poor” line at the end of the chorus will have drunken crowds chanting along to it. On the second track, You Cannot Stay, things start clicking with a pretty sweet little chorus. But the band really hit their stride on third track Lionhearted and the title track, which wraps up the release.
Where the two first tracks are nice, but ultimately a bit run-of-the-mill, Lionhearted well and truly proves that Lawmaker have potential to make a name for themselves. Bristling with singalong qualities and boasting a truly anthemic chorus, this is a really strong track – especially considering All Work, No Class is the band’s first release. The title track is almost of the same calibre; I especially dig the guitar lead during the last third of the track. It takes the music right back to the very foundations of oi! – a classic melody that could just as well be on a track by a Swedish band, a French band, a UK band or a US band, exposing the common root of all working class punk rock.
Ultimately All Work, No Class is a nice little debut release. The band have a solid basic foundation nailed down, and during its best moments the EP shows glimpses of greatness. With two out of four tracks being of a very respectable quality, and the remaining two nice if a bit dime a dozen, I can definitely see good things in Lawmaker’s future if they keep at it.
There’s two versions of the release, the “regular” plugged-in version, and an unplugged version (doesn’t sound entirely unplugged to me, though!). For me, the latter is a bit of a curiosity; the regular version is where it’s at. Definitely a release worth spending its 14-minute runtime on – and a band to keep on your radar.
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