Stars and Stripes is one of my all time favorite oi bands. I understand that they are sort of a joke band in the sense that they make fun of a lot of the problematic oi constructs, but I’ll be damned if they don’t do it in a way that only acts like Hard Skin can even begin to approximate. The first album that Stars and Stripes cut (“Shaved For Battle”) is right up there with Spinal Tap for best mockery album, and it easily surpasses a great deal of the other oi bands in overall quality. Now, “One Man Army” is not quite as impressive as “Shaved For Battle”, but this decrease in quality in the album should be likened to the differences between “Against The Grain” and “Generator” instead of the traumatic drops in quality by acts like Anti-Flag and Against Me.
Each of the songs on “One Man Army”: are sing-alongs that reside on the backs of a simple guitar arrangement; the splashy drums and hints of Freeman-like bass lines are icing on the cake. There is not a lull to be found on the disc, as each track is like an episode of your favorite comedy; things may be different in the episode, but things revert back to normal by the beginning of the next track. Tracks bounce all around runtimes and styles; “Hang On (to Your Dreams)” brings the band slightly out of the oi style to something that acts like The Vigilantes would be proud. This move to streetpunk more to oi is something that breaks up the two halves of the disc, but is still demarcated by the tremendous talent that the members of Stars and Stripes bring to the table. While there is not much in the way of cohesion amongst each of the tracks on “One Man Army” (that is, one track generally does not segue perfectly into the next one), the overall sound of the disc is cohesive in the sense that the screamed-out lead vocals are backed up with the rest of the band in a chorus, before the guitars kick back in.
This is like a greatest hits collection, with the 12 cuts on the album seemingly the gems from fifty or sixty songs that were not good enough to make the cut. Stars and Stripes have cut a lot of the caricature tracks (“Drop The Bomb”) from “Shaved For Battle”, and individuals into oi and streetpunk can like this band without feeling nearly as conflicted.
Top Tracks: S.T.F.U., Hang On (to Your Dreams)
Stars and Stripes – One Man Army / I Scream Records / 12 Tracks / http://www.iscreamrecords.com /