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Monday, May 4, 2015

We Are Hard Left: A First Listen to the Debut LP by Oakland's Newest Communist Oi! Band

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 2:49 PM

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Hard Left is a hard mod band featuring members of Lunchbox, Boyracer, and Black Tambourine. The band wears their politics (the leftist kind, obv) on their twin-tipped sleeves. Last weekend, surrounded by clinking pints of beer and people calling each other "comrade," the band released their latest record, We Are Hard Left

Listen and read along as we experience the band's debut LP for the very first time, and buy it here

"New Year"

Whoa, starting off with a drunken soccer hooligan-esque pub song is probably the best way to begin an Oi! Album, so we're off to a good start here. Here comes the verse. Alright, we're eight bars in and I've already heard "stop acting tough" and "put away your cellphone," on top of the Cockney Rejects-styled street punk/Oi!. This bridge has a weird over-driven bass part leading into a classic-sounding anthemic chorus (one of the most important traits of a good Oi! record).

OK, and here's an awesomely unneeded guitar solo — perfect Oi! formula so far. I could do manual labor to this no problem.

"Hard Left Rules OK"

These vocals sound like a snarling English bulldog. "Shoulder to shoulder / we’re in the clinch
Hard Left rules OK." Alright, we're only two songs in and they've already said they "rule OK." I like this band's style. More classic Oi! formulas going on here, reminiscent of The Templars. I wonder if these guys are good at fighting (they probably are if they are willing to tout their political beliefs so openly in the Oi! scene)?

"Chant No. 1" 

OK, straight up soccer hooligan chant with crowd background noise to start off this tune. Very Oi. Whoa, actually there isn't even song here, just a chant. That's Oi. I like that.

"Hand In Hand"

This is strongest riff so far. Great combination of tough and melodic, a balancing act that many lesser Oi! bands fail to perfect. This sounds like Sham 69 or the Cockney Rejects, with more references to "comrades" and being "Robin Hood's Band." And a less impactful recording style. 

The drummer is excellent, particularly on this track. He knows exactly how to drum for an Oi! band and really helps out on the booming choruses.

"Future Perfect"

The first line of this track is, "What became of Disneyland?" I know it's not the case, but I'd love if this was just a song about not knowing the current state of Disneyland. But, as it turns out, this sounds like a condemnation of the techies and upper class "stealing the surplus from you and me."

The distorted rhythm guitar is mixed too low on this record. Oh wait, there's another one. OK, just sounded weird when one guitar track was going. Great back up vocals harmonizing with the bulldog. The drummer has street-punk drumming down to a science.  More pointless guitar leads. Good Oi!.

"Stay True"

This one sounds like The Bruisers. A little more aggressive than the rest of the tracks so far. "There's nothing we can't do, if we stay true." Pretty solid Oi! lyrics that appear in one way or another in the discography of just about every band in the genre.  I wonder what Oi Of America thinks of these lads (and byrd)?

"Exhortation No. 1"

Later Last Resort Rock 'n' Roll intro going on here, not really a song. No lyrics, but a few "Hard Left!" chants and some "woahs." 

"Kicking It Off"

Back up vocals have a good texture to them, with a mix of male and female voices, reminiscent of Hard Skin. Very tough-sounding tune here — maybe the toughest of the bunch. More pointless guitar leads, alright alright. This band says comrade a lot. "Comrade do you hear the sound? / We’re kicking it down to the ground."

"Red Flag"

This opening verse riff sounds a little bit more on the '77 punk side of the genre, but the chorus is right back to the chanty Oi! Lyrically, the band is going full-on commie on this track. 

"Organize the general strike
Red flag over Oakland
Speculators out!
This is where we live
This is where we live

There is such a thing as society
Society is you and me
It's not measured in profit and loss
My profit is not your loss!

Don't run, 'til the victory's won
What you want done
We gotta make it happen

Don't pretend you've got nothing to do
There are dreams for you
Make them true"


This album leans more on the melodic, rabble rousing side of Oi like Sham 69 or Cockney Rejects, but the vocalists' gruff output gives them a unique sound — because the verses lack any sort of sing-songy tune. The band is a little less urgent that Blitz's "Someone's Gonna Die" tonight, instead relying on the choruses to carry the energy of the songs. It's a nice Oi! offering for fans of the genre, and well worth a pickup.

Hmm, probably time for me to listen to this again.
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About The Author

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome is SF Weekly's former music editor.


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