Oi! in Basque Country

V/A: Chaos In Basque Country, 1. Bolumena

Release year: 2021
Label: Tough Ain’t Enough Records

I’ve already touched upon what an eccentric but delightful oddity it is, that the strongest oi! scene of today is in the Basque Country. This autonomous part of Spain does not only harbour strong desires for independence, but is also a language minority, resulting in a truly unique local scene. Highly prolific, too: labels such as Tough Ain’t Enough, Mendeku Diskak and Common People Records have released a substantial body of work from these bands in recent years. A body of work no fan of oi! should ignore.

Compiling some of the bands from that scene, Chaos In Basque Country is a sort of follow-up to Kaosa Euskal Herrian, a 2020 compilation with the same concept. Preceeded by Chaos In Colombia, this is Tough Ain’t Enough’s second installment in the iconic “Chaos In…” concept within oi!. The original was, of course, Chaos En France way back in 1983 – these modern cousins faithfully follow the visual concept.

The 13 tracks on this compilation offer a brief but adequate glimpse into the variety and quality of the Basque scene. Drawing freely from the various local sounds of oi!, these bands offer more classic UK-style oi! oi!, obvious French influences, hints of the Italian sound – but also some epic viking rock influences.

Viking rock influences is where the album picks up: Rotten XIII’s Nire Amaren Etxea is driven by epic, slightly metallic, melancholy guitar melodies coupled with a vicious vocal delivery. Definitely a good opener; stylistically too one of the more standout tracks.

Several other tracks are worthy of a special mention, too. Blessure’s very French-styled Pour La Mémoire will certainly appeal to both fans of the classic sound, as well as friends of latter-day bands such as Bromure and Maraboots. On the other hand, Orreaga 778 offer something a bit harder and abrasive, with a catchy chorus and some hard-driving guitar leads on Herio. Staying in very classic territory, Oldarkor’s Besterik Gabe’s chorus with it’s “skinhead! skinhead!” chanting is a prime slice of hard-as-nails bootboy music, this too maybe with a slight touch of the French sound. And Kaleko Urdangak, whose newest album Bizirik we reviewed a short time ago (clickety click), are in fine form with their energetic and rocking Beldurra. And the remaining seven tracks are of the same admirable quality.

Chaos In Basque Country is testament to the continued high quality of the Basque oi! scene. It serves as a great introduction for those unfamiliar with these bands – although in my opinion the already mentioned Kaosa Euskal Herrian is even better – but is equally essential for those already in the know.

The compilation is also testament to the adaptability and global appeal of hard rocking, honest bootboy punk music. Around the world, people have answered the call first heard in the UK, and forged their own musical visions of the cockney street music. Though there are more exotic scenes in the world – the Indonesian scene springs to mind – I find the Basque scene to be extremely interesting in many ways. A geographically constrained scene of a small language minority, this is true underdog music from the streets. The pure spirit of oi!, in the raw.

Don’t believe me? Check this out, and you soon will.

Visit Tough Ain’t Enough Records on their website or Facebook

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