Let me begin by saying this: I like the Cops. I do. I’ve seen them numerous times in various venues and I’ve always left their shows impressed and satisfied. They seem like hardworking locals with a flair for guitar fights and energetic performances. They strike me as the type of guys you might want to slug back a sixer of High Life tallboys with and then go egg your buddy’s parents’ house. Even though you graduated high school in 1992. And it’s still 2007. But that’s neither here nor there; my point being that they’ve carved themselves a particularly small niche in the local landscape with a garage-punk sound predicated on pulsating and mesmerizing guitar riffs, vocalized by Michael “Mikey” Jaworski’s raspy yet passionate lyrics, with just enough primal drumming to make you want to march. In boots, goddammit. Their debut LP, Get Good or Stay Bad, was rightfully lauded for its gritty sound, political undertones, and danceable hooks (a lá Gang of Four or the Clash). But it’s this new release, Free Electricity, which has me a bit worried. After watching them at the Crocodile this past Friday (11/16) for a CD-release show, I’m led to this conclusion: while Jaworski mostly keeps to the same (successful) formula vocally, and bassist Drew Church more than holds his own, the addition of a third guitarist has left their sound a bit, well, muddled.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve listened to Free Electricity only once half-heartedly in a Sonic Boom, but these Cops have been playing numerous songs off this record for months now. I feel like I’ve heard many of them enough to opinionate. Maybe it was the newness of playing an entire set largely devoid of Get Good tracks (they did reel off No. 1 Hit Single “Controller”, which sounded great), but there seemed to be a definition missing amongst the guitarists. Between incumbent John Randolph and newbie Brandon Bay, I never could quite tell who was playing what (unless of course Randolph was soloing on the edge of the stage, complete with crooked face as he is wont to do). Perhaps they freed a little too much electricity. That being said, I did enjoy parts of their set, musically and non-musically alike: about a third of the way in, frontman Mikey was presented with a birthday cake, a sing-along, and a fat smooch from Heavy Hearts guitarist Denise Maupin (whose band, by the way, is fucking awesome). That was nice. And the opening bands were also first-rate.
Freak-rockers Pleasureboaters began the festivities with, apparently, their variety of hell-raising. I’d never seen a live show of theirs, so I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. At the risk of pigeon-holing the band (and illustrating my own insipidness), I was reminded most of Brooklyn/Berlin/L.A. outfit Liars, with a definite influence from Johnny Whitney of the Blood Brothers. Either way, it was entertaining and musically raucous. I look forward to their next performance.
Rounding out the show was an appearance from the Whore Moans, another band I hadn’t seen live before. I enjoyed the more straightforward American punk that this local band offered up, and the “harmonizing” between all three string players was a nice change of pace from the other bands on the bill. Kudos to these gents.
As for the Cops, I’m not quite sure if they’ll live up to the Stranger’s most recent prediction as “the Seattle rock act most likely to blow up global-style”, but here’s hoping they at least improve on their cohesion and rediscover the style and texture that made their first record so good.