Sunday, October 12, 2014

Youth Defense League

Oi is a criminally romanticized genre. I say this because there are so many layers to it and somewhere in the scrum of these layers, something has gotten horribly lost. In recent years, interest in the oi subculture has reached the forefront of the hardcore punk subculture. The problem with this is that much of this is invested in the fashion aspect of oi. Kids talk about The Partisans, Cock Sparrer, and Blitz so that they can wear Fred Perry, talk about football in Britain, and boots without looking like a complete poser. Outside of Fred Perry, Lonsdale, Bill Buford's Among The Thugs, and Strongbow cider lies an essence for oi music that the aforementioned aspiring fashionistas not only don't understand, but are vehemently against. Here are some cornerstones of oi music that need to be discussed: nationalism, right-wing politics, and viscerally unabashed violence. So while it is "safe" to listen to the likes of Cock Sparrer and The Cockney Rejects, you are in a lot of ways listening to glorified pop punk. The spirit of oi and skinhead culture resides in the likes of Skrewdriver (circa All Skrewed Up), Combat 84, and The 4-Skins. To truly be into the oi / skinhead subculture is to be into sketchy bands. There is no way around it.

Notice that up to now this discussion has largely been confined to bands in England. Oi in the USA really didn't hit a stride until the late 1980s and it did so in New York City (and CT). First was Connecticut's Forced Reality who are arguably one of the two best USA oi bands of all time. The second was the other half of that argument, New York City's Youth Defense League.

If Warzone had a brother band it was the Youth Defense League. If Warzone was simply an NYHC band with oi aesthetic and ideals (and they were), Youth Defense League was simply what Warzone would have looked like as an oi band. Their lyrics were rich in nationalism sentiment, right-wing political thought, and songs about their crew's fighting. It was no surprise that Warzone and YDL were inseparable and played together constantly, much to the chagrin and dismay of audiences and promoters.

Youth Defense League is the finest USA oi band ever. They got it right first. They took phrases like "American Pride" and "NYC Skinheads" made it their own. When it comes to subculture hegemony, you don't need to get there first or even do it best, you just need to do it right. When you listen to YDL, you can hear the sense of purpose and direction. They aren't figuring it out, they aren't confused about what they're doing. This is their discography and, for a shorter listen, just their LP "Voice of Brooklyn". Essential listening, especially if you fancy yourself an oi fan. Separate fashion and pageantry from essence and you will find understanding and only from understanding do we achieve authenticity. In short: put down your pint, take off your Fred Perry polo, stop talking about the Arsenal match and instead read Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative and put your polished boots through someone's mouth. Enjoy.


  1. It's 2014. Oi in America in Norteno music.

  2. Great article.I don't know where you stand politically but you stated some truths that are not easily said in the era of the political correct thought police.I'm about to read the rest of your posts but this one impressed me.Yes,oi is not that poppish 'streetpunk' that many claim to be.And the specific political stigma has alays been a part of it.As for the antifascist or leftist skinheads...back then they were not even a minority.When the percentage goes up to 0,1% they can't be recognised as a component.The sad thing is that many paki-bashers and sieg heilers of the past have regreted and try to change history in order to present themselves as hippier as they can.

  3. what a shame Nick disowned all this legacy with his grovelling, politically correct apology.

  4. YDL is not the best american oi band. That goes to the Templars.