The new frontier forged by the cataclysmic upheaval of punk was a good thing, right? Post-punk, art-punk, industrial, synthpop, etc etc were supposed to be the exciting new possibilities of punk’s meteoric impact, the D.I.Y. ethos harnessed by the new wave of belligerent iconoclasts ready to broaden punk’s horizons. “…Trendy university people using long words, trying to be artistic…and losing touch.” scoffed The Business guitarist Steve Kent. Cabaret Voltaire’s Dadaist tape experiments or the literary rigour of Magazine meant nothing to the scores of disaffected kids from an increasingly insecure working class who sought belonging, too broke in the malaise of seventies Britain to indulge in intellectual fancy. The reaction from the streets and a million miles away from the students’ unions was Oi!, a hard-nosed rebellion of blue collar revolt spearheaded by Sham 69 and Cockney Rejects, offering kinship to the angry and alienated and preaching unity in a climate of racial tension stoked by the National Front that lurked on the movement’s fringes.
Oi!’s bawdy spirit courses throughout Doug Zilla’s various band projects. A member of French punk groups Sordid Ship and Coup George, each band delivers a tight and direct rock and roll assault that’s solely concerned with impact and stirring passions. Now looking for a piece of the bondage-hooded punk market (to be shared with Canadian revolutionaries DBOY), Zilla has concocted an alter-ego of sorts, a pink gimp sporting an impeccable Schott jacket called Cuir, French for leather. A one man band handling all instruments, Cuir throws in a cheap keyboard to add a unique synth twist to the Oi! stomp.
“It’s synthpunk Jim (Pursey), but not as we know it”. Cuir’s debut LP Album is a strictly traditionalist statement, honouring Oi!’s brute energy and wielding the synth not as some instrument evoking unease or bleak, dystopic visions, but to add powerful melodic leads that shine brightly not too dissimilar to, dare one say, Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. First track ‘Maniac’ establishes the entire drive of the record: fast, hooky, and hardcore. Ramones strut with urgent sequencers that sparks with sheer energy with lightning riffs which never lets up across the record’s 20 minutes. The ephemeral potency is reflected in the lyrics and song titles, pared down shout alongs to be sung covered in sweat and beer in some grotty underground venue, and punchy titles like ‘Black Leather’ or ‘Cut Cut’ that embraces itself in unpretentious appeals to attitude. There’s little variation across the 11 tracks, but who cares when each cut is so prime and vital, Oi! was never concerned with artistic detours, and thankfully neither is Cuir.
In an uncertain time of lockdowns and the stifling isolation it’s brought, escapism is more needed then ever. Cuir wisely and expertly has unleashed an electrifying debut that ignites desperately sought fervour and excites the soul, and honours the original Oi! ambitions by providing an outlet of fury that could trigger any mosh pit, but bears a positive, uplifting heart like an arm that reaches in to pick you up after falling into its synthpunk whirlpool.