Album Review: Noi!se – “Rising Tide”

Even without the Oi! spelling in the middle of their name I’m going to go out on a limb and say you would still know Noi!se is an Oi! band. Direct descendants of the genre’s (mostly) English godfathers like Cockney Rejects, Blitz and Cock Sparrer, among many, many others.

The great thing about Noi!se is, although there is a huge crop of top notch bands who keep the Dock Martins, skinny suspenders and shaved head flame alight, Noi!se is among the most sincere, the most educated in their field of musical expertise and they write some of the best songs the genre has heard in decades.

Releasing a handful of EP’s and 7”’s over the last few years, last year’s collection “Pushing On” collected all of their work thus far and added a few bonus’ to it, notably the hard charging five minute opus “Idle Action.”

When the band announced their follow up to “Pushing On” their ever growing base of fans around the world began to salivate.

The word Oi! as a genre descriptor can be attributed most identifiably to the band Cockney Rejects out of the once infamous East End of London. An early 80’s punk band who took what The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Jam were doing around town (and later around the world) and making it heavier, tougher and substituting the anarcho- political lyrical content with homegrown tales of life as an outcast on the streets. Drinking in pubs with your mates, fighting fans of opposing football (soccer if you’re North American) clubs and trying to eek out an existence on the dole or working a thankless job that paid pennies.

The actual term was coined by journalist Garry Bushell after he took notice to the fact that while playing live, before every song the Cockney Rejects would introduce it by grabbing the attention of the crowd with a hearty ‘oi!’ And thus a musical subgenre was born.

For many years Oi! music was strictly a product of the U.K., but as the music began to take hold and spread across the Atlantic, North American factions began popping up out of the gritty, big city streets, not to mention the influence those original English Oi! bands had on some of punk’s future leaders like Rancid and Dropkick Murphys. In fact, Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen did a tour of duty in Oi! godfathers the U.K. Subs before joining Rancid (he now also front’s the American Oi! revivalists The Old Firm Casuals) and the Murphys’ Al Barr was the singer of Boston Oi!/street punk combo The Bruiser’s (check them out) before stepping into Mike McColgan’s shoes to fill the spot he left in that band to pursue firefighting (he now front’s the Street Dogs).

Whether it be the fashion’s, the stories or the music itself, all of North America’s Oi! bands pay a huge debt in their presentation of it to those original United Kingdom sects. Many of the singer’s even seem to adopt a bit of cockney in their delivery when on the mic.

Such is the case with Noi!se’s dual singing force Matt and Nate. Stylistically, the two crooners are akin to Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, particularly on that band’s eponymous 1993 debut, before Frederiksen joined the ranks. Noi!se’s Matt, like Armstrong, has a more controlled delivery. Spitting nails in key and providing a more digestible listening experience while Nate, like Freeman, has a much rougher and grittier vocal style, more unrefined. Assaulting the ear drums with a swift Doc Martin to the ribs. They both bring their own flavor to the songs that work in different ways, though I must say I prefer, as I do Armstrong’s, Matt’s voice to Nate’s.

“Rising Tide” took a long time to get from the recording to the releasing stage, getting lost in the ether that is pressing records for small, specialist record labels. Sometimes that means the band is at the mercy of the company cutting the vinyl and that can mean the cutter’s get to it when they get to it and then hope everything comes out sounding the way its supposed to. It’s a frustrating reality for band’s who don’t have a million bucks to spend on their releases.

I have to admit though, when the record finally made it into my grubby paws, I was a little disappointed at the goodies held within. Song-wise, this record is chock full of great content. Seven songs of tight, blisteringly catchy street punk that clock in in just under twenty minutes. That’s great for people who have never heard the band before or don’t own any of their previous releases. For the initiated however, we’ve already heard a few of these songs;

“Brothers In Arms” and “Blame” can be found on the EP’s “This Is Who We Are” and “Walk Beside Us,” respectively, as well as the “Pushing On” collection and “On The Outside” is an acoustic version of a song also found on previous releases. To be fair though, the songs have been re-recorded for “Rising Tide” and sound better here than they did on the earlier records, but when all you’re getting is seven songs from a band you hold your breath awaiting the next release from, it’s hard not to feel a little let down when some of them are repeats.

Still, that means four brand new songs, at least one of which, “Rising Tide,” the song for which the record is named, is the band’s best song yet and one of the best punk songs, of any subgenre, I’ve heard in a long, long time. The song feels like the culmination of the natural songwriting progression of a band that just keeps getting better and better with every passing year. The hooks are catchier, the lyrics are more sophisticated, the structure is airtight. In fact, the song itself is almost worth the price of the whole shebang in and of itself. So if you look at it that way, as a maxi-single, this is a great deal. A song hot enough to melt steel with six extra rave ups tacked on the back end, how can you go wrong? The record is still over way too soon, thank God then for the ‘repeat all’ button.

All in all there are now a total of 19 Noi!se tracks to bang your bald head to out there on the airwaves. More than enough to tide us over till the next, and hopefully beefier (in song number) release from these Tacoma, Washington Oi!sters.


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