First Offense by The COPS

Release date: February 16, 2018
Label: Artificial Head Records

The COPS is a new band put together by a selection of Houston punk scene lifers, including frontman and singer Tony Fulco and bassist Jeff Smith, with the rest of the line-up switching half way thru the album. The COPS dress as police officers whilst performing, and all their songs are about the dark, but familiar side of life as a U.S. cop. It’s the sort of wheeze you can imagine Jello Biafra having coming up with in the 80’s, and indeed his first person tales of police brutality, such as ‘Police Truck’ are very much a template for what The COPS are about.

First Offense is made up of eleven short sharp bangers in the classic U.S. punk tradition of Black Flag, The Ramones and indeed The Dead Kennedys and whilst the idea wears a little thin by the closing couple of numbers there is plenty of fun to be had in the meanwhile. It’s the entertaining nature of the album though, that I find mildly disturbing. You can argue all day about what punk is or was, but I very much doubt it was ever supposed to be about nostalgia, and that’s where some of my listening pleasure is derived from. For those of us who grew up listening to angry, politicised U.S. punk and hardcore,  these types of sometimes gleeful, first person tales of police corruption and wrong doing can create a warm fuzzy feeling entirely at odds with the message. It certainly is a weird world in which ‘California Über Alles’ and memories of Reaganomics are now somehow comforting and benign.

If you can avoid over-thinking it all then tracks like ‘Homicide’, ‘Police Brutality’ and ‘Protect and Serve’ will carry you along on a speed rush of caveman riffs and screaming sirens. Best of the bunch are the dubious sado-masochistic charms of ‘Night Stick’- “You wanna feel it / I wanna deal it / Down for whatever / Dressed in leather” and the seedy but  S.T.D. catchy ram-a-lam of ‘Street Hooker Love’.

In all honesty, most of these songs virtually write themselves; ‘Repeat Offender’, ‘Hot Pursuit’ etc, but still The COPS do carry it off with expertise a certain amount of charm. Whilst I envision that these guys would be fantastic to witness live, I think a second offense may be a crime too far.

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