The Cops

    Get Good or Stay Bad


    The “era-revival” movement in today’s music world seems so focused on the ’80s synthesizers, eye-liner, Thomas Dolby
    that if a current artist were to approach a different decade’s sound,
    they could be afforded a certain amount of anonymity in doing so. By
    staying off the bandwagon, they could keep under the fad radar and
    emerge with a sound both old and new, but ultimately something all
    their own. The Secret Machines do this. The Hold Steady do this. The
    Cops do not.



    it original or exciting to cite Gang of Four and the Kinks as
    influences? What about the paradigm of political punk, the Clash? For
    their debut album, the Seattle foursome (featuring members formerly of
    Hello From Waveland and Kinski) play in the mold of
    and at times seem to exist entirely because of
    the Clash. But although the members of the Clash and Gang of Four
    wielded their guitars and bravado like weapons, the Cops don’t try to
    carve out a mold of their own. They merely add to the landfill with
    futile pseudo-politicized lyrics and generic, manufactured,
    straight-ahead guitar rock. There’s nothing wrong with their riffs

    “Rising Son,” “Waiting List,” and “One Time Continuum” are catchy
    enough, and opener “Negative Cutting” has an At the Drive-In intensity
    about it

    but nothing in any song particularly stands out. For a band mining in
    the punk genre, to have nothing bold to say is as good as saying
    nothing at all.


    times, the attitude in singer/guitarist Mike Jaworski’s voice is
    infectious; “Controller” plays like a new band’s independence anthem,
    and “T.V. Lieyes,” free of false affect, is inspiring. The lyrics in
    both are rote, but it’s hard to ignore a full-band shout-along or
    call-and-response, and both got ’em. On “Don’t Take it Personal, Dave,”
    though, his snarl is embarrassing, as is the almost note-for-note Kinks
    guitar rip-off.


    of current bands can be cited for similar infractions, but the key is
    to infuse enough personality into the music to allow the listener the
    pleasure of dual discovery. The current band becomes a conduit, a time
    machine: David Bowie via the Arcade Fire, Duran Duran via the Killers,
    Gang of Four via Bloc Party, every old blues guitar player via the
    White Stripes. Get Good or Stay Bad, however, offers no such passage, only a bunch of derivative punk-type tunes with transparent influences.


    Stay Bad runs into a common problem, also evident on East Grand Blues, this year’s release by the Jack White-hyped Greenhornes
    the influences are so upfront that the album loses the balance between
    old and new. From “We Are the Occupants”: “So what’s your new
    philosophy/ How are you going to change the world/ What are you going
    to say/ That everyone will remember?/ How are you going to make a
    difference/ What will you do?/ Paint a picture/ Write a lovely song.”
    With so little to back it up, it’s not just empty, it’s almost a



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