‘Cock Sparrer: The Albums 1994 – 2017’

❉ Cock Sparrer might not be a household name, but this is a highly recommended purchase for anyone into British punk, especially the streetpunk/Oi subgenre!

“This isn’t a band surfing the nostalgia wave, but a band still writing and recording material that sits comfortably alongside what they did in their “prime”, 40 years ago.. It’s not hard to see why they’re regarded as streetpunk royalty, even by A-Listers such as Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys.”

Cock Sparrer are something of an enigma.  A band that never troubled either the single or album charts, and that 99.9% of people have never heard of, but that are regarded as messiahs and with a reputation to rival the Sex Pistols within the punk scene itself.  I confess to being something of a fan of this band, despite never really understanding why they’re quite as well regarded as they are.

Formed in East London way back in 1972, Sparrer (as they’re commonly known) had quite a few flirtations with major league fame, but never quite achieved it at the time.  Malcolm McLaren sniffed around them pre-Pistols, and then Decca signed them and released two singles and (in Spain only) an album in 1977, but they didn’t shift many units at the time.  Now of course, these releases are considered classics and collectors items.  Active only sporadically, many regard their 1982 LP Shock Troops as their finest work, and it’s hard to disagree.  This 4-disc release from Cherry Red includes their four most recent albums, spanning the years 1994-2017, after they’d started to cement their reputation in the scene.

1994’s Guilty as Charged is one of their stronger efforts, and includes seminal tracks such as Because You’re Young and Tough Guys, both of which are mainstays of their live set to this day.  It’s very much typical of the Sparrer sound.  Powerful hooks and sing-along choruses grab you almost immediately.  The songwriting is very strong and it’s a cracking album overall.  Some bonus and live tracks round out this first disc.

Disc 2 contains 1997’s Two Monkeys and it’s another solid effort, although not quite as good as Guilty as Charged.  The track Battersea Bardot is a tribute to the now-forgotten British star of the 60s and 70s, Carol White, and it shows they can write something a bit more slow and cerebral when they want to.  Bats Out and I Live in Marbella are also Sparrer classics, and among my favourites.

2007’s “Here We Stand” was a favourite of mine even before reviewing this release, and it’s great to here it again.  It’s shows a band continuing to write and perform great songs as they reach middle age, at a time when many of their contemporaries are merely going through the motions and releasing mediocre content.  It’s up their with their best work, and there’s no reason to press the skip button on this album.  Standout tracks here include Did You Have a Nice Life Without Me and the fabulous Suicide Girls.  Bonus tracks here are two re-recordings of earlier tracks, and they fit in perfectly with everything else on this disc.

2017’s Forever somehow passed me by when it was released last year, but as the band members enter their 60s, the sound and spirit remain the same.  This isn’t a band surfing the nostalgia wave, but a band still writing and recording material that sits comfortably alongside what they did in their “prime”, 40 years ago.  Five bonus tracks round out this, their most recent album release.  It’s not hard to see why they’re regarded as streetpunk royalty, even by A-Listers such as Rancid and the Dropkick Murphys. It’s certainly one I’ll listen to again as I hadn’t heard these tracks before.

This is a highly recommended purchase for anyone into British punk, especially the streetpunk/Oi subgenre.  If you’ve only heard their earlier material you’ll love this, as it’s very much business as usual.  Even if you’ve never heard the band before, I’d still suggest getting this as it’s rousing stuff and instantly accessible.  Make a point of picking up the earlier albums too.  The only very slight criticism I could make is that the songs can sound a tad samey, but they they’re this good, who really cares?  Cock Sparrer might not be a household name, but you’ll struggle to find another band with such a back catalogue of this consistent quality.


❉ ‘Cock Sparrer: The Albums 1994 – 2017’ (AHOYBX360) is out now from Captain Oi!, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records. RRP £19.99

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