Strange Times feat

The Strange Times – I Love Cops (EP, 2014)

New York’s The Strange Times aren’t shy of sharing their mission statement. Their claimed intent is to “make the most relevant punk rock you’ve heard in decades.” That’s an interesting proposition no matter how you look at it. It suggests by implication that a lot of punk rock lacks relevance, for one.¬†Even “relevance” itself is an ambiguous term. From the band’s promotional blurb it’s clear they refer both to the topics they tackle lyrically and their musicianship.

It’s an assured statement: can The Strange Times really produce something more musically adventurous than Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come (1998) or a better representation of the cocktail of sadness, nostalgia and revolutionary fire than Against Me’s Crime As Forgiven By (2001)?

In truth, I’d guess it’s less a statement intended to be taken at face value and more a pugnacious statement of over the top self-aggrandisement and devil-may-care affrontery, a blurb for the ironic commercial age, equal parts braggartery and knowing winks that it’s a nonsense statement.

At least that’s how I’d choose to approach it because while there’s no denying that The Strange Times have some musical chops that deserve to be boasted about, and there’s an uplifting, inspirational personal-is-political vibe to their lyrics, this isn’t an EP that’s going to grab the vast and dysfunctional body that is punk rock by the ears and shake change into it.

The Strange Times EP cover‘Stop! Let’s Get Frisky’ pokes fun at cops by comparing abuse of stop-and-search powers to sexual assault of black male minors but aside from a rather charming interlude it’s a straightforward punk footstomper. The mid-pace ‘Accepting Defeat’ boasts some fine melodies and its chorus vocal lines would lend themselves well to a sing-along (let no one ever claim that a sing-along isn’t an essential element of punk rock), which meshes nicely with its personal story of a revolutionary couple who have drawn apart ideologically (recalling Against Me!’s ‘Baby, I’m an Anarchist’ – if only lyrically). ‘Potion’ is driven by a solid riff and is well-constructed but it’s probably the least notable song present.

‘Incite’ is probably the most interesting song on offer. It’s the most overtly revolutionary, portraying the red-and-black lines of anarchists making demands of government being met by the police line. The electric viola makes an appearance here, which is a nice tip of the hat to both the folk punk of the last decade and a half and the long US tradition of leftist resistance and folk music (RIP Pete Seeger).

Well worth a listen, I Love Cops, but just take those boasts with a pinch of salt.

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