Bad Cop / Bad Cop – ‘Warriors’

By Leo Troy

When America went loco and elected a burnt pig in a suit as their almighty lord, a flood of interchangeable mainstream think-pieces tried unsuccessfully to see the bright side. Everyone’s favourite headline was something along the lines of ‘well at least blank will get better now’ and low and behold the go-to blank was punk rock, a theory that deserves a very long, very condescending sigh. Nevertheless Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s second album can put that theory to the test. As one of the first American punk albums written in Trumpdom, ‘Warriors’ has potential to set the bar.

Hurtling out of the gates with empowering opener ‘Retrograde’ it’s clear that, as with album number one, Bad Cop/Bad Cop have taken some sort of Fat Wreck 101 crash course. Co-vocalists/guitarists Stacey Dee and Jennie Cotterill snarl and strum like early Warped Tour vets, ripping through late ’90s-style melodic punk jams with balls of fire. Drums stampede arm-in-arm with root-note basslines and borderline-choral harmonies punctuate all the important bits of understated verse melodies and earworm hooks. In essence this is the opposite of innovation, but who cares about that? You want punk rock, you get punk rock. With heaps of character too.

But the album’s undeniable peak is ‘Amputations,’ pretty much the least punk thing on it. Channelling Dee’s self-destructive partying and subsequent rehab into a mutated ’80s-style Sunset Strip stomper, it provides the only change of pace on ‘Warriors’ and a welcome one at that. Elsewhere, breakneck pace is the norm, which can get a bit tiring after a while. By the time the title track rolls around, the general vibe of the band wears thin and it’s hard not to regularly check the clock, rendering the whole final third of the album pointless while you’re longing for previous gems ‘Why Change A Thing’ and ‘Broken,’ both of which share a kinship with the best of the band’s debut ‘Not Sorry,’ distilling rough and ready components down to their purest, simplest form.

Lyrics are a similarly mixed deal. Despite admirable intentions, the spoken word megaphone bit of ‘Wild Me’ is cringe-inducing, as are the title track’s on-the-nose verses, whereas the Bad Religion-aping ‘I’m Done’ and lead single ‘Womanarchist’ feel like vital statements. The only difference between the two is approach, the former riddled with an off-putting sense of self-satisfaction, the latter convincingly screaming its credo from the rooftops. Either way, forthright political and sociological criticism is hard to do without sounding preachy, and the fact that Bad Cop/Bad Cop get it half right is commendable.

As a whole, ‘Warriors’ is packed with contradictions. Riotous punk rock fundamentals clash with occasional sickly sweet production. Songwriting veers from scream-along anthems to forgettable essay-like diatribes. It’s certainly an artefact: a concise summation of American frustration, a calling card for marginalised communities and an ode to the underdog. But is it any good? Well it’s okay, but the real question is something else: since Trump, has punk got any better? The undisputed answer to that is no. It was always bloody good.

LEO TROY

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