Sham 69 – Who Killed Joe Public?

Why? Why do the bands of yesteryear insist on never saying die? “There’s the scar of every sad has-been” says new singer Tim V on “Hall of Fame” and I can’t tell whether it’s said with irony or self-delusion. Sham 69 was a highly influential punk band from the 70s responsible for popularizing the use of football chants in their music and giving birth to the ‘Oi!’ subgenre. Now, however, they are merely a shadow of their former self.

The opening track, “Shout”, gave me hope that this album wouldn’t be all bad. It’s nothing original but it’s a fun, typical Oi! track with its football chant chorus and some decent melodic work. However, from then on, the punk rock tracks took a turn for the worse. Most of them are simply reminiscent of songs that were written by other bands to more successful effect. The instrumentals on “Skin and Bone” bring to mind the Sex Pistols’ “Silly Thing” except without the solidity; when V sings “whatever the weather, there’s no one better” its just laughable. “The Verdict Is Vengeance” spouts clichÈ, political punk lyrics in a weak performance. I think I even heard an imitation of the 60s Batman theme song on one track (wait, maybe that’s not such a bad thing).

Tim V is a very limited vocalist; I know it may sound strange saying that about a punk band because its pretty much expected but it shows on the less punk oriented tracks on the album. These tracks are some of the most baffling; such as the pop rock effort, “Then There Were None”, and the Beatle-esque, “Hall of Fame”. “The Last of London” is a reggae song that is much too long and has no real direction. V’s vocals sound especially weak spouting an attempted social commentary that just falls flat. Even the driving, punk closer, “Army of Tomorrow”, is ruined by lacking lyrics and melody despite some of the best instrumentals on the album.

There are some catchy hooks on the album but that’s all they really end up amounting to. Who Killed Joe Public? is the sound of a band that has very little left to offer. If you want to hear some good, old fashioned punk, don’t buy this; seek out some of Sham’s earliest work and see how they sounded in their glory days.

(Step-Forward Records)