Cock Sparrer make anthemic street-punk anthems that feel timeless | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Cock Sparrer make anthemic street-punk anthems that feel timeless

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Foundational British street-punk band Cock Sparrer formed in 1972, but their most recent album, 2017’s Forever, shows the troupe still at the peak of their powers. (Colin McFaull’s voice is roughly a half-octave lower than in the band’s early days, but that’s hardly a quibble.) Aside from Blitz and the Cockney Rejects, the majority of the oi! and street punk that poured out of the UK during the Thatcher era has aged reprehensibly, and from the vantage point of 2019 seems perilously apolitical. That said, Cock Sparrer’s 1982 album, Shock Troops, remains essentially peerless. The band generally don’t write from a political agenda, other than mining the us-versus-them territory that’s de rigueur in punk lyricism and celebrating their working-class bona fides. On “Watch Your Back” they make a case that extreme politics of any kind come at the detriment of blue-collar populations: “Everybody's talking about smash the state / Sounds to me like the final solution / Right wing, left wing, full of hate.” Like the Rejects, Cock Sparrer mostly function as dispatchers of good-time party music, with tunes crafted for sing-alongs among a bunch of drunken friends. At their best, they combine timeless themes with musical elements that nod to the UK’s folkloric past: on the Shock Troops cut “We’re Coming Back,” for instance, the opening guitar line bleeds into McFaull singing to some distant friend and imploring them to keep their head up. It’s instantly nostalgic and winsome but also wiry, tough, and artfully concise.   v

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