This eight-track gold vinyl compilation (it’s also out there on all the usual streaming platforms) snook out over the festive period as a surprise gift to the Godfathers of streetpunk Cock Sparrer, by way of a “Thank You” from their US record label Pirates Press.
Bringing together eight of the label’s finest bands, who all in turn got to choose their own Sparrer tune to cover, what it actually turns out to be is perhaps the almost near perfect way to bring down the curtain on Sparrer’s fiftieth anniversary year celebrations.
Kicking things off in true style are Seattle punks The Drowns who give us a right rollicking (and dare I say it, perhaps a little poppier sounding) version of ‘Riot Squad’. Having already reinvented one of my all-time favourite Slade tunes, ‘Know Who You Are’, for a previously released 7” single, I was a little surprised that they chose to play this one straight, but as the old adage says “if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it”.
Up next is former member of Civet and frontwoman for Turbulent Hearts, Suzi Moon, who having wowed the RPM office during 2022 with her ‘Dumb And In Luv’ album dusts off the early Sparrer classic deep cut ‘Platinum Blonde’ and gives it a glam slamming workout. Something that actually has me wondering what might have been if Joan Jett had chosen to cover a Decca days Sparrer track back in the early 80s when she what looking for her next top 20 US smash.
That’s the thing with Cock Sparrer though isn’t it, they have written so many great songs that should have been huge hits over the years when picking just one to cover it must be almost impossible. So, its German punks Plizzken who make perhaps the most obvious choice (given this album’s title) in the shape of ‘What’s It Like To Be Old’. Which is once again a faithful retelling of the original, albeit here it comes complete with a little bit of metallic chug thrown into the guitars.
There’s no doubting that Grade 2 are one of the very best punk bands in the UK right now and just to hammer that point home yet again the IOW based trio go and make ‘Roads To Freedom’ from Sparrer’s ‘Guilty As Charged’ album actually sound like one of their own songs. I really can’t wait to hear what this band does next, and if their soon to be released ‘Self Titled ‘album is as great as expected then 2023 really could to be their year.
After this, the straight bat rendition of ‘Where Are They Now?’ by New York punks The Ratchets actually strikes me as being a little subdued, that is until they mix things up a little during the second verse and this curveball proves to be the perfect introduction for what is about to follow.
Everyone’s favourite band of 2022 The Interrupters then treat us to a faithful rendition of ‘We’re Coming Back’ which for me sadly misses that subtle twist that The Ratchets were bold enough to drop into their cover. I simply expected more, I guess.
It’s American reggae punks The Aggrolites reworking of ‘Take ‘Em All’ that really stands out from the pack here though, as they have totally deconstructed the ‘Shock Troops’ classic and turned it into a dirty reggae anthem. I can see a few people going “what the fuck?” when they get to hear this cut for the first time, but this is what makes the difference when covering a song and having the minerals to stamp your own identity all over it. Can you do the rest of the album now please guys?
This is something Brighton punks The Bar Stool Preachers also do with the minimum of fuss via their skanked-up version of ‘Suicide Girls’, and given that their singer TJ is the son of Sparrer’s singer Colin McFaull I can almost image Tom did this just to prove to his dad that his musical legacy is safe in his hands as the Preachers prepare for the release of album number three (‘Above the Static’) via a major label deal with Pure Noise Records and hopefully taking them to all new levels of greatness.
Sitting here writing this I do have to wonder how much this record was inspired by Sparrer’s two sell out 50th Anniversary London shows, as during those gigs between sets we were treated to some truly off the wall Sparrer covers by way of an appetiser for the band’s greatest hits set that was due to follow.
Enough of my hypothesizing though as back in the here in the real world there are but 1,500 of these highly treasured gold vinyl records available worldwide (direct from Pirates Press, see the link below) so you best not hang around too long as these are no doubt going to fly out to members of the Cock Sparrer family all over the globe.
Author: Johnny Hayward