Anthems for skinheads

THE LAST RESORT: Skinhead Anthems IV

Release year: 2021
Label: Randale Records

This year it will be 40 years since UK oi! group The Last Resort released their landmark album, A Way Of Life – Skinhead Anthems. Much water has passed under the bridge, and both the skinhead and oi! scenes have had their ups and downs, and been through much turmoil. Partially because of that turmoil, the original incarnation of the band was quite short-lived: already by the time the original Skinhead Anthems album was released, the band had changed their name to The Warriors before quickly calling it quits.

It took until the mid noughties before the band made a comeback, although vocalist Roi Pearce formed a more hard rock/metal oriented second incarnation known as The Resort in the late 80’s, who released one album. In 2005, a mini-album called Resurrection was released, and finally in 2009, the second batch of skinhead anthems, You’ll Never Take Us – Skinhead Anthems II was released. As you can easily guess from the name of the album currently being reviewed, the band have also released a third album full of skinhead anthems. So Roi Pearce with an ever-changing line-up of musicians has kept relatively busy.

The album starts with a song called Freedom Pt. 2. The name is a nod to the opening track of the iconic first Skinhead Anthems album, called simply Freedom. If the band’s idea was to evoke some kind of nostalgia… oh boy did that misfire. In comparison to the classic track, Freedom Pt. 2 sure sounds beefier with a much heavier sound, and far less wobbly due to more competent musicianship. But that’s where the good stuff ends. Where the original Freedom sounded wonky and had wobbly musicianship, it was a fucking great song. Iconic, like the rest of the album. Freedom Pt. 2… well, the best I can do is “meh”.

Sadly, that sets the tone quite amply for the rest of the album: “meh”. The guitar sound is heavier and more aggressive than before, with a slight metal hint to it, but overall, stylewise this is another compilation of The Last Resort style oi! songs: mid-tempo plods, straightforward riffs and catchy shoutalong choruses. But there’s no whiff of the diamond-in-the-rough genius of the first Skinhead Anthems here, nor of the slightly more polished goodness of the second album here. This is sort of “The Last Resort by the numbers”; an instantly recognizable sound, but lukewarm in other aspects.

Of course, a large element in the band’s sound are Roi Pearce’s vocals. Let’s be frank: even by punk standards, he’s never been one of the greatest vocalists. But he is iconic. His voice is The Last Resort. And though made coarser by age, the vocals are the one element that truly links the current incarnation of the band to the debut album.

Already their previous album, 2013’s This Is My England – Skinhead Anthems III left me a bit cold. This album is pretty much on the same level, although the beefier guitar sound makes the band sound a bit more revved up. I suppose this is thanks to Lars Frederiksen of Rancid and Old Firm Casuals fame, who now handles guitar duties in The Last Resort as well. It’s a shame that he couldn’t beef up the songs as much.

Skinhead Anthems IV isn’t a bad album. It’s just thoroughly, totally uninspiring. Even after several listens, not one single song has stood out as memorable, or as being even close to the level of the classic stuff. This is one of those albums there’s really no point to spin, when there’s so much stronger material in the band’s back catalogue.

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