Sham 69 - Best Of: The Cockney Kids Are Innocent (Cover Artwork)

Sham 69

Best Of: The Cockney Kids Are Innocent (2002)

Castle Music

Before we delve into The Best of Sham 69, let's talk a little about this now-legendary band. Forming in Hersham in 1975, Sham 69 was one of the major constituents of the first wave of British punk, and is widely believed to be the creator of the phenomenon that has since been termed Oi! Between 1978 and 1980, the proletarian "Hersham Boys," released five LPs, creating music for the working class, by the working class complete with sing-along anthemic lyrics that the kids could relate to. Unfortunately in 1980 the band folded, but in 1987 the two main songwriters, vocalsit Jimmy Pursey and guitartist Dave Parsons reunited, unveiling a new form of Sham 69 that is still around to this day.

Sham 69's importance in punk history is unquestioned, as the band has influenced such acts as Cock Sparrer, the Business, and the Dropkick Murphys, to name a few, and countless bands, incluing Rancid, Oi Polloi, 7 Seconods, Sick Of It All, and the Dropkicks keep the boys' legacy alive by covering their material.

All right. Now to discuss The Best of Sham 69-Cockney Kids Are Innocent, a nice amalgam of songs from the band's LPs up to 1980. The greatest material on this, the most recent compilation of Sham 69's bevy of work, are the selections taken from their first three records, most notably 1978's indispensable Tell Us The Truth. That record's title track, which is a masterpiece, along with the catchy "Borstal Breakout" with its Ramones-esque beat and feel, and the live "We Gotta Fight," if only because of its undeniable intensity and raw energy, are some of the highlights. Another crucial track is the unrelenting "Cockney Kids Are Innocent," a song that originally appeared on Truth under the moniker "George Davis is Innocent," which might just be one of Sham 69's hardest songs.

As previously alluded to, the lyrics to the songs became anthems, with choruses that one can't help but sing along to, as in the crushing "Hersham Boys," a song that sounds like it should be sung in a pub with its rowdy vocals and stomping drums, and "If the Kids Are United," which also has great verses like, "They can lie to my face/But not to my heart/If we all stand together/It will just be the start." Other songs with the same message of unity are "Unite and Win," "Tell Us the Truth," and the two intoxicating live songs "What Have We Got" and "We Gotta Fight." And who couldn't relate to the hilarious "Family Life," a song that begins with a little bickering between Jimmy Pursey and his mum. The lyrics are universal, irrespective of time and place: "Does she always shout at you/Does she tell you what to do?"

However, the songs from the two later records aren't as impressive and pale in comparison to their earlier work. For instance, "Joey's on the Street Again" sounds too 50s rock-and-roll-ish and "You're a Better Man Than I" is kind of weak, slow, and drags a bit. But perhaps the worst song on the entire disc is the very tame and lame "Poor Cow," a strange acoustic offering from 1980's The Game.

In any case, this twenty-song compilation is a good overview of Sham 69's early work despite a few somewhat dire tracks (the multitude of memorable songs make up for these duds). And it's great for both the discerning connoisseur who is looking to complete his/her collection as well as the neophyte who just wants an abridged version of this band's renowned work.