Going nowhere with Hats & Caps

HATS & CAPS: Going Nowhere

Release year: 2021
Label: KB Records

About a year ago, in my review of Laki & Järjestys’ 7″ (read here) I remarked that Finnish oi! has often been in short supply. Luckily, at the moment things are looking unusually good; apart from Laki & Järjestys, The Boasters have released a couple of nice 7″ singles, and another newer band have reached the full-length stage: Hats & Caps from the capital region of Finland.

Just like Laki & Järjestys, Hats & Caps aren’t comprised of younglins and greenhorns: the guys in the band have earned their chops in bands such as The Pistones and Watch Your Back, and all are well-known faces in the Finnish oi! scene.

With a previous 7″ under their belt, Hats & Caps approach their debut full-length with a pretty traditional arsenal of tricks: hard and straightforward riffs, driving bass, aggressive vocals. In terms of musical originality, Hats & Caps don’t exactly come packing – but then again, who really expects that in oi!? And, luckily, the band make up for lack of originality with quality.

Basically, Hats & Caps take on punk rock is a knuckleheaded, aggressive one. Vocalist Wille snarls and shouts with barely held rage, Janne from The Pistones throws in some classic-style oi! melodies in between abrasive riffing, and the bass provides a steady heartbeat. Though rock-hewn and rough around the edges, Hats & Caps aren’t anywhere near brickwall oi! in terms of musical dynamics or lack thereof.

Complemented by adequate production both packing a punch and being sufficiently clear, Goin Nowhere is a more than passable debut album. It doesn’t rewrite the oi! textbook, or even add many new footnotes to it, but it takes some pages off it and creates one of the better albums from the last few years’ crop – I admit that the genre has seemed to suffer from a bit of a drought lately.

If there’s anything one is left desiring from the album, it’s one or two killer tracks, the kind with choruses whose melodies and lyrics stick in your head like gum in your hair (unless you’re bald like me). The kind you can chant along to even when you’re falling-down drunk at the end of the night.

This one minor – very minor! – quibble notwithstanding, Going Nowhere is a strong debut. Both musically and soundwise it packs a real punch, and both the style and attitude take the best from the traditions of oi!. Daring to have a say, and have a laugh – at instagram fashionista skins in this case – Going Nowhere doesn’t shy from ruffling a few feathers, but keeps away from odious politics and soapbox preaching.

All in all, Hats & Caps and their debut album are a more than welcome adrenaline injection to the Finnish oi! scene. Now, if only the ongoing pandemic would ease up and we could see these guys on stage more often…

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