Cock Sparrer – Forever (Randale Records/Pirates Press Records, 2017)

“Forever” album cover. Artwork by Zak Kaplan

So, before I’ve even heard the record, the first thing I notice is the headline on the press release – “Cock Sparrer release first new album for ten years”, I immediately go and dig out Here We Stand, flip it over, see that it was released in 2007, and think “fuck, Sparrer’s ‘recent’ album is ten years old, now I feel really old”.  So, having sat down for thirty minutes to contemplate the futility of life and mortality, I decide I’m ready to hear the latest release.

I guess it’s hard to listen to a new album from a band that have been around for over forty years without an element of pre-conception as to what it will be like.  Whilst it would be awesome to be sat here telling you that this album is breaking new ground and will win new fans over to Cock Sparrer, I didn’t expect it to be that, and it isn’t.  I’m not sure, but maybe there’s a point in a band’s life-span around the twenty-year mark when it would almost be a betrayal to move too far from what the fans expect, and if so, Forever by Cock Sparrer can loudly plead not guilty.  So, that taken as read, what is this album?

I’m not sure why, but the opening line of the opening track about kicking cans along the footpath disappointed me, it just doesn’t seem to scan properly, but a simple key-change and some proper-oi! shouting and I was grinning, there’s no doubt this is definitely a Sparrer album.  I’m listening to the later tracks, all the familiar themes of working class pride and the re-occurring girl that’s gonna be okay (you told us about her on the last album too guys, it’s been ten years, maybe she needs a hand after all) are here.  Both Contender and Family Of One remind me of the Rejects’ Bad Man (lyrically rather than musically), Us Against The World has the feel of Sparrer’s own Take ‘Em All, only in each case, we now have a slightly watered down version. Maybe I was being unfair earlier, and this is aimed at younger fans who don’t know the older songs, or maybe they just ran out of ideas so are recycling the themes that have worked in the past.

COCK SPARRER Photo by Sam Bruce

I have to be fair though, I can imagine listening to this album again, and when they tour later this year I’m sure there’ll be plenty of singing along to several of the tracks from this album, but it’s a good album rather than a great one.  Street-punk as a whole has been very aggressive in recent years and there’s been a dearth of the lighter, more sing-along oi! As such this album should feel like a breath of fresh air, but instead it just feels a bit stale.  There’s nothing wrong with it as such, it is a good album, but there’s nothing even close to the brilliance of Working or Watch Your Back.  I felt my heart sink during I’ve Had Enough at the line “this land ain’t mine anymore”; Cock Sparrer have always, and commendably, opposed the far-right element within skinhead culture, and I don’t doubt the innocence of this lyric, but I can also see the badly-spelled YouTube comments from countless keyboard-warrior fascist shit-stains with usernames like XXXWhitePower18XXX already.  What did I say about reminding me of older tunes? England Belongs To Me anyone?

I think I need to take time for a deep dive on track thirteen, Up With This.  First off, was this wrote by McFaull and co. or fucking Yoda?  “Up with this, I will not put”. Really???  Also, there’s an instrumental middle part, and it’s quite clearly the tune of “What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?”.  The song is about how his wife doesn’t get him because she wants him to do the washing up and won’t buy him a big TV.  Before we get into the wrongs of artificial binary gender stereotyping, the song is clearly a tongue-in-cheek dig at folk who don’t pay their own way and this is definitely the best track on the whole album, I actually went back and listened to it three times before I moved on.

As the album plays through I’m looking at the title of the last song, We’re The Good Guys, and thinking please, oh please, don’t be as bad as that awful Suicide Girls song you finished the last album with.  Thankfully it isn’t, in fact I have to say, the album finishes pretty strongly, I can see We’re The Good Guys being a classic show stopper, or opener actually, it would work at either end.

So on the whole, if you’re already a Cock Sparrer fan, buy this album, you’ll like it, if you already dislike Cock Sparrer, don’t buy this album, and if you don’t know much about them but want to check them out; buy Here We Stand, it’s loads better than this.

You can buy Forever from http://www.keekaboo.co.uk/webstore/cocksparrer/

Lee “Moz” Morrissey is a punk rock and reggae fan, a sceptic, (sometimes even a skeptic), and a Manchester United supporting loudmouth.

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