Albums Punk Forgot is a look back at excellent or important records within our community that, for one reason or another, have been lost or forgotten. It’s a tribute to those bands and releases that deserved to be heard, but maybe for some reason dropped off our radars too soon. We at Dying Scene hope to give these records the credit they deserve.
Today DS writer Robolitious takes a look back at Oskar’s Idle Will Kill and its vast, if not subtle, influence on modern punk. You can read his take on the album below.
Punk music journalists often talk about the 90’s Epi-Fat sound, which was a term for SoCal skate punk, melodic hardcore, or whatever you want to call that upbeat, faster, melodic, and sometimes technical brand of punk rock that Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords became well-known for. Entering the new millennium in the midst of this popularized sound, Epitaph signed the band Osker from Los Angeles, who released their first full-length record, Treatment 5, in 2000. While the album was solid, it was pretty standard as far as what you would expect from the label. However, after a year of touring with bands such as Millencolin and Guttermouth, they made a big name for themselves… as what PunkNews described “the most hated act on Epitaph.”
The problem was that Osker, or at least Devon Williams (lead singer/guitarist/songwriter) became understandably jaded on punk rock as a scene. Epitaph’s website quotes him as saying, “while you have gallons of mohawks and leather jackets telling you that they do what you want, I don’t believe that.” Osker became notorious for onstage critiques of the audience, and if you go through the web archives of their old website (Osker.net for you nerds like me), you can find some pretty entertaining examples of that, including one where they insulted and offended NOFX (something nobody dares to try now-a-days). It seems reasonable to assume that it was their jadedness with cookie-cutter punk rock that led them out of fan-imposed boundaries and into trenches of self-discovery and patriotism for complete individuality. And this newfound mindset made for Idle Will Kill, which to-this-day is one of the most introspective albums to be released by Epitaph.
Epitaph’s bio for the band describes the record as “so full of texture and emotion that it’s hard to believe that a year ago, they were mostly known for fast & snotty anthems as well as the ability to piss off everyone around them including their fans, fellow bands, their record company, not to mention the entire nation of Canada.”
So that’s why we’re here: Idle Will Kill. Judging the current state of punk rock today, we either owe this album a lot, or Osker was very simply ahead of their time. While coming out only a year after Treatment 5, it is the clever, more mid-tempo, introspective, and maybe even tear-jerking emo-punk work that never got the credit it deserved. There were other bands with similar sounds – take The Broadways from Chicago for instance. There were even West Coast bands who played this brand of punk as well – The Honor System and Samiam to name a couple. What we owe Osker though is taking that sound and making it accessible. And in comparison to other Epitaph releases that year, Osker was the one to take the gun and turn it back on themselves. As a California skate punk band, they broke the mold of fast, pissed, and goofy Pennywise/Rancid/etc. look-a-likes. The majority of pop punk you like today – anybody from Red City Radio to The Wonder Years – you may owe to Osker.
Whether it’s the sense of urgency found in “Animal”, the heartbreak in songs like “the Body” and “Anchor”, the critic critical “Patience” which starts with an acoustic guitar and piano chords in the background, or the Punk-O-Rama favorite “Strangled”, Idle Will Kill seems to speak to everyone in its own special way. Rarely does a band so successfully remodel themselves to become utterly forgotten.
Looking at the music of Devon Williams now, he’s only made natural progressions from Idle Will Kill. Having previously participated in acts such as Finger-Cut MegaMachine, and Lavender Diamond, and now playing solo, he has strayed away from what he described as “the skateboards and shoes and hair and patches and the diets and the tattoos.” While that may be sad for an Osker fan, he admirably cared more about his integrity than what his fans thought. And if he had never operated on that level of “pure sincerity,” we wouldn’t have this gem of an album. Other members (I’m unfortunately unsure of which ones) have gone on to be in LifeSupport. Osker has been covered by bands such as Transit, the Swellers, Elway, Living with Lions, Last Call, and most recently Entropy. Almost all of these covers are of Idle Will Kill songs. It’s sad to me that older punks weren’t telling me about this record when I got into this kind of music, so I’m telling you now – go check it out.
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