Various - OIL: Chicago Punk Refined (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


OIL: Chicago Punk Refined (2003)


If you've been following this site at all in the past 6 months, you should already know what the premise of this CD is, but just in case you just learned how to read or something, I'll break it down for you: THICK Records set up a mini-recording studio inside a decrepit, albeit still working oil blending factory. They then invited in 19 of Chicago's finest bands to lay down exclusive tracks. They accomplished this all within 14 days. OIL is the completed product.

So who's on this thing, you ask? Just to get it all out of the way up front, here's the list, in order of appearance on the comp: Rise Against, Haymarket Riot, Alkaline Trio, Duvall, The Dishes, The Arrivals, Lawrence Arms, The Ghost, Owls, Tom Daily, The Tossers, Plain White T's, Detachment Kit, The Reputation, Local H, Check Engine, Bitchy, The Matics, and Bob Nanna [of Hey Mercedes/Braid].

I don't know about you, but that is quite the "who's who" of the Chicago scene currently. So let's take a look at some of the bright spots:

  • Rise Against - Gethsamane - An absolutely killer opening track. More hardcore than the band's last album, too; if this is any indication of what we're in for when their second album comes out in a few months, we're all in for a treat.
  • Alkaline Trio - Old School Reasons - a straight up punk rock song with no real frills, and it's catchy as all hell. To make it even more special, this is the first track that both Matt and Dan take lead vocals on: Matt on the verses, Dan on the choruses. The idea of this comp really comes into play in this song, too; Matt's vocals are nowhere near perfect and had this been for their new album it would've probably gotten a lot more studio treatment, but it just adds to the overall grit of the whole thing.
  • Duvall - The Last Three Years - It's Duvall, which means it's the Smoking Popes. It's great, duh.
  • The Arrivals - Pangea - a wonderfully eerie punk rock song with a ton of emotion being poured into it. One of the biggest gems on the comp.
  • Plain White T's - Bruises - I'm really not a fan of this band at all, but this song's stirring social commentary about spousal abuse really won me over to their side. The singer's voice sounds scarily similar to Mike Park on this track, too, although maybe that's just me.
  • Robert Nanna - Lost My Lights - Wow. Hauntingly beautiful. Bob's delicate strumming coupled with a sparse drum machine brings the compilation to a close, and there isn't a better song in this bunch that could do a more admirable job at retiring the CD. This track [and the other acoustic track contributed by Tom Daily] really capture the whole idea of this live recording process, as you can actually hear trucks driving by in the background. Very cool.

    I only chose to highlight a handful of these songs, but to be honest, there's not a dud in the bunch. It's amazing how, even though all 19 bands could record with generally the same equipment in the same setting, the songs can all still come out sounding drastically different, production-wise. It just adds more character to the band and to the compilation, and makes it even more of a winner.

    Really, everything is covered here, from the noise rock of Haymarket Riot and Detachment Kit, to the female-fronted bands like the Reputation and the Dishes, to the almost over-the-top artsiness of groups like the Owls and Check Engine. This CD is more than just a snapshot of a scene; it's something much more permanant. In the canon of indie rock, OIL has earned a place among the "essentials" of the scene.

    Alkaline Trio - Old School Reasons [clip]
    The Arrivals - Pangea [clip]
    The Dishes - Use Your Arms [clip]

    Look at pictures from the OIL sessions here.

    Read journal entries from the OIL sessions here.