It’s finally autumn, y’all. Time to trade in Adidas Sambas in deference to your battered 8-eyed Oxbloods. Should the reference be in your suede-headed wheelhouse, it’s time to meet Grade 2.
The punk/Oi! troupe from the Isle of Wight are set to drop a full length entitled Graveyard Island, their first for Hellcat Records. After their storming live show caught the ear of one Lars Frederiksen, his Rancid bandmate, Tim Armstrong, jumped on board as the forthcoming LP’s producer. The Epitaph Records imprint seal of approval is clearly well-earned, as they’d already had the chance to split stages with The Interrupters, Dropkick Murphys, and Germany’s Stomper 98. The Ryde-based UK act, first conceived when the rowdy Brits were in only high school, recently dropped the lead single from the new long player.
The title track is an exercise in taut and hyper melodic street punk and Oi! traditionalism. Immediately memorable hooks abound, incorporating and updating first wave anthemic vibes a la Cock Sparrer. In addition to their “banned from the pubs” forebears, they mix the rough and tumble muscle oft-exhibited by the TKO roster when they absolutely owned this world in the late '90s/early ‘oughts. They sit comfortably within more modernized acts like Bishops Green, Re-Volts, Argy Bargy, Lion’s Law, and Booze and Glory into their tight and street-ready attack.
There’s a dash of the rhythmic jangle and ramshackle edge that calls to mind the melodious Templars, Vanilla Muffins, Bombshell Rocks, and Smalltown. Boasting verses that are catchy enough to be mistaken for choruses, the three-piece Grade 2 have graduated into a fully formed proposition whose songwriting chops belie a band far older than these “angelic” upstarts.
The rhythm section, while always string, has morphed into a veritable powerhouse. The floor-tom heavy drumming is matched by busy bass fretwork that’d likely land an internship with Matt Freeman (Rancid, Operation Ivy, Charger). Though they tread familiar and well-worn lyrical ground, the classic approach lends it a timeless vibe. It’s all the more fresh when delivered with such energy. Decrying the dead-end town is an aesthetic that often informs youth. “Graveyard Island” is the sonic partner to the resignation and depression at the center of working class, council flat life.
As they’re now part of the label that gifted us the Give ‘Em the Boot comps, they’re sitting in the sweet spot to take their songs abroad. As I write this, they’ve landed Stateside and are are in the middle of a US trek. If you miss primary school, it’s time for Grade 2.
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