Vice Squad / The Droogettes - Split (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Vice Squad / The Droogettes

Split (2017)

Rebel Sound

Split records can be tricky affairs. Too often they are just two bands slapped together, meaning that one side gets spun and the flip gets one or two turns, if any. Without any discernable purpose, split records often come off more as marketing tools than a conceptual art piece.

That’s not the case with the Vice Squad / Droogettes split. Both sides shine a light on groups that probably should get more spotlight than they do, and further, a conceptual theme stretches across both sides, making the whole release feel like a singular unit.

Vice Squad, still led by Beki Bondage, for their part, kick out two (or three on the CD) kick ass slammers. Beki was involved in the nascent punk scene and her bonafides and lessons learned from that scene shine through here. “Beautiful Toy” and “London Fog” tear along with all the catchiness and snap of the classic early uk punk singles. Vice Squad aren’t afraid to mix a little classic glam rock sound with their political statements and that makes the underlying message hit that much harder. These tracks are solidly in the second wave vein, with Bondage- voice still sounding impeccable- howling over a simple, but effective punk stomp riff with a little guitar flare at the end for style. On the CD version, the group caps off their half with “Prozac Nation” where Bondage rants against doctors having their pockets lined by corporations. It’s a simple, but effective, statement, that should be more apparent in punk today. Vice Squad aren’t always mentioned up there with the hallowed champions of British punk, but this release gives cause for re-assessment. Excellent.

Meanwhile, Philly’s Droogettes turn in their finest work to date. The band has been growing for the past few years, undergoing several lineup changes. Apparently now in a permanent form, the band has morphed from an almost pop-glam combo to a down and dirty punk-meets-oi! hybrid. The transition has been worthwhile.

They kick off their half with a pair of opposite tracks. “Bovver Girl” is about a girl that doesn’t take any shit and uses her boots to rearrange people’s faces. “Little Boy Bombs” follow a similar theme of independence and tells the tale of making the best of a bad situation. Both tracks juggle a rough-and-tumble approach with an underlying sense of melody and song construction, which makes the hard hitting stuff hit that much harder. The CD version is capped off with “No Apologies,” which is self explanatory and a fitting anthem for the band and a striking cover of the Oppressed’s “Hooligans.” The kicker, however, is that these four young ladies take the three-chord stomper from oi! chant to an acoustic, circular track, making it almost feel like Peter, Paul, and Mary do oi! And you know what- it’s original, it highlights the original song’s beauty, and it’s damn clever. Who would have thought that you could flip the script and find something new in a 20 year old punk classic, but here we are!

Both of these groups are turning out some of their finest, if not their finest, work to date, and if there’s one thing to be learned from this split, it’s that certain core philosophies can transcend decades, the Atlantic, and even the sides of a vinyl record.