A Blitzkrieg Bop for God

By Alex Suskind

Published August 26, 2009, issue of September 04, 2009.
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Like their forefathers, members of punk band Moshiach Oi! have great reverence for the Moshiach, or Messiah. The only difference is that these punk rockers have traded in their walking sticks for thrashing guitars.

Yishai Romanoff
PHOTO: ART AS EREZ
Yishai Romanoff

In their debut album, “Better Get Ready,” Moshiach Oi! has found a divine balance of religion and rock. Released on August 25, the album uses the traditional punk sound of raucous guitars and boisterous vocals to explore Jewish ideals and values. “Get Ready” includes original songs like “All Praise” and “I Wanna Learn Torah,” as well as Moshiach’s unofficial tribute songs to the Jewish people such as “Shabbos” and “Am Yisroel Chai”— the former celebrating Shabbat as “Hashem’s Holy Day,” the latter a rallying cry for Israel. However, the highlight of the album comes on “Shema Yisroel,” which turns into a rowdy version of the traditional prayer.

The name of the group can be traced to the roots of punk, which began in the late ’70s when bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones began playing loud and fast lo-fi garage rock. Soon, a new genre of punk called Oi! emerged to represent the British working class. Thirty years later, lead singer Yishai Romanoff, who was originally the only member of Moshiach, used Oi! as a double entendre (Oy, from the Yiddish phrase Oy Vey, is described by the band as the eternal sound of the Jewish working class) to come up with the name Moshiach Oi!. Romanoff described it as “the new sound of Jewish hardcore Torah punk rock,” and then recruited Menashe Yaakov, Mitchell Harrison and Pesach Simcha to fill out the rest of the group.

With the release of “Better Get Ready,” the anointed members of Moshiach Oi! join an already extensive list of Jewish punk bands such as 7Seventy and Yidcore. And like those other groups, Moshiach Oi! is ready to bring its loud and proud Jewish rock to the punk scene. As the late great (Jewish) Joey Ramone once shouted: “Hey ho, let’s go!”


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