Cock Sparrer - Shock Troops (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Cock Sparrer

Cock Sparrer: Shock Troops

Shock Troops (1982)

Carrere


5
Way back before knowing about classic British Oi! bands was cool (i.e. somewhere around 2005), I was thumbing through a copy of Punk Rock Confidential (put out by the Bay Area moguls at Fat Wreck) and ran across a photo of a woman with Cock Sparrer's bloody wings logo tattooed across her entire back...

Way back before knowing about classic British Oi! bands was cool (i.e. somewhere around 2005), I was thumbing through a copy of Punk Rock Confidential (put out by the Bay Area moguls at Fat Wreck) and ran across a photo of a woman with Cock Sparrer's bloody wings logo tattooed across her entire back. Not only was this the most outrageous/coolest thing I'd ever seen, but it served as a reminder that I needed to check out the curiously named band that people had been recommending to me for years. After one song (an online stream of "Last Train to Dagenham") I was hooked. Love at first listen, if you will.

The major factor playing into getting hooked on a consequential listen of a full Cock Sparrer album was how ridiculously catchy every single song was. After all, you can't make a catch without a hook. You can't make a successful Cock Sparrer album without hooks, either. It's essential. And on Cock Sparrer's timeless 1982 debut, Shock Troops, it's never more apparent. With fairly standard music, and lyrics that are above par, but not exactly brilliant, Cock Sparrer's big selling point is that their songs will get stuck in your head for days, and you won't mind at all. "Riot Squad" -- a whimsical tale of a rejected thug turned state-hired billy club -- seamlessly blends classic pop songwriting with a perfect six-string siren simulation as lead vocalist Colin McFaul sings the chorus, "He's in the riot squad / The wanna fight squad / The shoot on sight squad / For law and right." While other prominent British Oi! acts like Sham 69 and Cockney Rejects jumped at the genre's success, inking major label deals, Cock Sparrer epitomized the working class ideals behind the music, as the militant anti-corporate "Take ??Em All" suggested the best thing to do with slick-talking, self-interested music execs was to "Put 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em."

Long accused by the sensationalist and misinformed media of propagating the right wing, Cock Sparrer lets their true politics show through bluntly in "Secret Army": When a bomb goes off in a city street / When a man gets killed for his beliefs / When a mother cries for the son she had / That's when the world's gone mad." The boys kick up a bit of dust with the unofficial English football anthem (and I stress the word "anthem") "England Belongs to Me," while the climbing pitched proclamation of "Droogs Don't Run" sounds like a direct inspiration for the Bouncing Souls' "You're So Rad."

While I wouldn't necessarily suggest a full-back tattoo, Cock Sparrer deserves all the praise they get, for Shock Troops is an album anyone can enjoy. [Not to mention, Taang!'s 2000 reissue includes five bonus songs that, while not being at the same level of quality, certainly don't detract from the perfection of the original.]