Cockney Rejects – East End Babylon (Cadiz)
CD/LP/DL
Out Now

East End Oi! originators release great new album alongside forthcoming documentary film. Joe Whyte, who grew up punk and experienced it’s ups and downs firsthand, gives us his verdict.

My relationship with the Cockney Rejects over the years has been let’s just say, up and down.

When they first appeared at the tail end of 78, punk was in stasis. The Pistols had self-immolated. The Clash, despite the revisionist view of history, had temporarily disappeared up their own posterior, SLF had gone a bit pop and “streetpunk” was making its first inroads via Sham 69, UK Subs and chums.

Safe to say I was somewhat disillusioned by the whole thing by this point.

The Rejects were a brief breath of fresh air. Their boisterous attitude, disregard for the NME et al and their youthful energy were all a real positive. Add to that Mickey Geggus’ guitar: a full-throated roar that was the bastard son of Steve Jones’s wall of sound. The first EP, (Flares And Slippers) was a riotous, irreverent slice of lo-fi hi-jinks that had as much in common with the TV Personalities and Swell Maps as it did with leather jackets and mohicans.

So far, so good.

My mates and I were all enthralled by The Rejects and second single Bad Man built on the promise of their debut.

Round about now it all started to go wrong for this young punk.

Bushell had appeared on the horizon and was furiously trying to start a scene around The Rejects. Unfortunately, The Rejects, (whom, incidentally, I firmly believe are much smarter guys than they’re ever given credit for) seemed to be subsumed by all of the hype. They can be forgiven for much, being young lads at the time, but I wonder if they regret ever being involved in the whole Oi! thing.

Round about the release of the debut album, an interview with the band appeared in the music press. Asked about the then fledgling New Romantic scene, Jeff Turner stated words to the effect of, “You come down our boozer dressed like that, you’re getting a good kicking”.

Now, I’m no New Romantic fan and frankly found the whole thing utterly laughable, but this remark cut right to the heart of where punk had taken a wrong turn. Wasn’t it supposed to be us, the freaks, against the boorish mob who would do you in for looking a certain way?

Anyway, this is where I left the Rejects and their story afterwards is well covered in the forthcoming movie East End Babylon.

I encountered them again at Rebellion Festival a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were, despite the Praetorian Guard of skinheads literally onstage with them.

This album dropped through my letterbox last week and I’ve lived inside it since then.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is firstly, punk album of the year, and secondly, the best album the Cockney Rejects have ever made.

The Geggus guitar growl has never sounded better. Chords sounding like an invading army underpin every song. Turner’s impish vocals are clever, impassioned and a little confrontational at times.

Opener Your Country Needs You sets the tone right away with slashing lead lines and pummeling drums. Geggus even manages a lovely Thin Lizzy-style guitar break mid-song.

A lyric about national pride might set the PC antennae a-twitching, but this is a heartfelt, well-thought- out paean to 21 Century Engerland and its national struggles that someone like Plan B would kill for.

There is a pathos throughout this song, (and the album) that implies a longing for a lost country and lifestyle that these East End boys clearly pine for. Nationalism is always a sticky one (just ask Morrissey) but the Rejects pull it off without any hint of small-mindedness. The breakdown in the middle eight with the sample of Winston Churchill even works when it really shouldn’t. The overriding theme of the album is of loss, not just of the old ways and lifestyle, but of a country that’s ran itself into the ground.

 

 

It’s not all doom and gloom by any means. The Rejects know how to rock and there’s fun aplenty in the grooves. I Love Being Me is something of a Jeff Turner mission statement, with its cheeky lyrics and joi de vivre amongst its Only Ones-borrowing guitar and loping bass runs.

Central song is title track East End Babylon. This could be the best song the Rejects have ever released. Double-tracked power chords herald thundering drums from Andrew Laing before Turner piles in with a lyric about his home turf that is in turn pained and proud. These boys have matured beyond belief musically and lyrically and this is a tour de force of punk rock passion. We’ll ignore the verse part nicked from The Cure’s A Forest as I’m sure Mad Bob Smith wouldn’t argue with The Rejects!

Believe it or not, Babylon even has time for a mid-song piano and whistling section (!) that lets Turner do his Artful Dodger thing to great effect. Simply irresistible.

Silvertown is typical Rejects, all sing-along chorus and scorching chords. It even has time for an acoustic guitar interlude towards the end. Streetpunk beware.

It’s so refreshing to hear an album with such diversity (in all senses of the word), whilst still retaining a very real punk rock authenticity.

Guts, glory, passion and stories.

East End Babylon has them all in spades.

I can safely say that I’m now a reborn Cockney Rejects fan and can’t wait for the movie.

Join The Rejects!

Cockney Rejects official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

All words by Joe Whyte. You can read more from Joe on LTW here.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. I loved Flares and Slippers when I first heard it on John Peel. By 79 punk was spiraling in different directions, some more inspiring than others and The Rejects were definitely a breath of fresh air. The tribalism was at odds with the punk spirit (playing before a massive Hammers backdrop in the likes of Leeds was surely the antithesis of ‘If the kids are united’!) but as the reviewer stated, they were young and enthusiastic and definitely rock n roll! 

    During the 70s punk scene, bands were always pigeonholed. Just as The Fall got lumped into punk (Mark E Smith winding up audiences in identikit biker jackets), the Rejects got lumped into Oi because some of their songs actually went ‘Oi’ in the choruses! But to me, Oi was a bit cartoony – punk that had nowhere else to go except get faster, get shoutier and endlessly regurgitate Ramones riffs at 78rpm. The Rejects were never like that. Mick Geggus was always closer to Thin Lizzy’s majestic rock n roll swagger than the 4-Skins. The full-blooded riffs, impudent vocals, catchy choruses and fierce working class pride (including a vitriolic opposition to the British Movement knuckledraggers who infiltrated their gigs) were a spark of energy at a time when many punks were disowning the origins of the whole thing and draping tartan rugs over their shoulders (for which no-one deserved a doing by the way!) Looking forward to East End Babylon …      

  2. Enjoyed the article – really makes me want to hear the album. Not to be pedantic, but the second single was I’m Not A Fool, not Bad Man.

    And, regarding a comment by Mark Fleming above: “the Rejects got lumped into Oi because some of their songs actually went ‘Oi’ in the choruses” – that’s not right. I’d say that “Oi! – The Album” – and thence the Oi! “movement” – was named after the Rejects’ song Oi! Oi! Oi! from their 2nd LP, which then appeared on ‘Oi! – The Album’, effectively as it’s signature track. That said, I agree the association did them no favours – they were more talented that the sea of Oi! dimwits. I think Oi! consisted more of regurgitated riffs played at 16 rpm than 78!

    Nonetheless, when that first Oi! album came out, it was an exciting moment – and it undoubtedly added some freshness to punk for this small-town boy.

    I’ll be at the debut screening of East End Babylon, so perhaps more pedantry to follow…

  3. Have to admit most of the above is pretty fair comment. However, I thought Micky Geggus played on the first 4 Skins material released so he’s got to be a bit closer to them than Lizzy, great as they are!

  4. Fairly ridiculous prejudices if you ask me. Mick Geggus, as Bone says, actually played lead guitar on the 4-Skins’ Chaos, and Jeff’s other band the Postmen also had two tracks on Oi The Album. Mick also produced the fourth oi album, Oi Oi That’s yer Lot
    The bands who flocked around the old Oi banner included the Business, Blitz, the Burial, Angelic Upstarts, Infa-Riot, Gonads, Splodge, the Oppressed, Cock Sparrer, the Last resort, Red Alert, the Toydolls, the Exploited and many more. Many of them are still going strong
    “Bushell has appeared on the horizon” oh no, the big bad boogey man. Was he any relation to the Garry Bushell who got the Rejects their deal with EMI after they asked him to manage them? Do some research, get it right
    I liked the Oi albums, they were exciting and genuinely influential. I would suggest that the Rejects’ association with West Ham’s “ICF” and later UFO did them far more harm

    • Aye, Alex, some good points there. I’ve now seen the movie and you’re spot on there as regards Garry Bushell. I still think Oi! is a load of shit, though.

  5. The new Rejects album is ok, but never on the same level as the old ones. Mick is better than ever, but Jeffs voice sounds absolutely terrible on this record, sorry to say. Songwriting is ok, but the can do better. They are still great as a live band, recommended. Hopefully the movie will be released on DVD.

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