Cock Sparrer – The Albums 1977 – 87 Boxed CD Set (Captain Oi)

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Hot on the heels of Captain Oi’s Angelic Upstarts box set comes this 4 album, 53 track collection from one of my all-time favourite bands – London’s finest – Cock Sparrer.

Frequently name-checked as an influence by the Dropkick Murphys, Rancid and Agnostic Front, Cock Sparrer brought the pub rock sound of the 70s firmly back to the streets, injecting it with a healthy dose of London pride and Cockney humour; and along with Cockney Rejects, The Business and 4 Skins established the template for Oi/Street punk that remains to this day.

Kicking things off on Disc 1 is the bands rare self-titled debut album, previously only released in Spain, and featuring some of the bands most well-known songs such as the singles ‘We Love You’ and ‘Runnin’ Riot’, the almost Heavy Metal sounding ‘Sister Suzie’, the anthemic ‘Chip On My Shoulder’, ‘Teenage Heart’ and the by-now-answered ‘What’s It Like To Be Old’ – many of which still feature in the band’s live set.  For the uninitiated Cock Sparrer mix 70s glam/pub rock with Colin McFaull’s distinctive London twang giving it a raw street punk edge but I think it’s fair to say that on this release Cock Sparrer’s heavy rock influences are firmly at the forefront, certainly more so than on their later releases. With an additional 5 tracks this is effectively all of Cock Sparrer’s earliest recordings and a veritable treat for fans.

Disc 2 is one of my most played albums – and undoubtedly one of the best punk albums ever made 1982’s ‘Shock Troops’ – here presented in its re-mastered 1993 version which includes the seminal Oi classic ‘England Belongs To Me’, ‘Argy Bargy’ and the bands comedic take on ‘Colonel Bogey’. ‘Shock Troops’ is pretty much a faultless release, with the band combining their well-executed musical chops with some acerbic and well observed lyrics which cover the band’s disappointment with the first wave punk rock elite (‘Where Are They Now’), the tongue in cheek paean to 80s benefit fraud (‘Working’) the speedy ‘Droogs Don’t Run’ and the surprisingly restrained and almost early Que-esque ‘Out On An Island’. A bone fide classic.

With a few line-up changes under their belt the band released ‘Running Riot in ‘84’ in, uh, 1984 with its Hooligan inspired cover artwork it certainly captured the zeitgeist of English Football at the time. The changes in guitar personnel had a definite influence on the band’s sound with a fuzzier hard rock sound and slower pace replacing the more punk style of Beaufoy and Lammin and the band even teeter on the verge of Goth with ‘They Mean Murder’ and. That said the album does feature one of the bands best loved songs – the sarcastic ‘The Sun Says’ which revisits the bands earlier style both musically and lyrically. Also included are alternate live versions of ‘Runnin Riot’ and ‘Chip On Your Shoulder’.

1997’s ‘Live and Loud’ captures Cock Sparrer pulling off a full throttle live performance with the band blasting through 13 of their greatest songs plus an enthusiastic cover of the Clash’s ‘White Riot’. Opening proceedings with a spirited ‘Riot Squad’ (complete with introduction from The Business’ very own Steve Whale’ so the booklet liner notes inform me) – ‘Live and Loud’ solidifies the bands credibility as one of the most fierce yet listenable punk bands of the era, as they smash through Runnin’ Riot’, ‘Take ‘Em All’, ‘The Sun Says’, ‘Secret Army’, England Belongs To Me’ before exiting with a musical kick to the head in the form of ‘Chip On My Shoulder’.

The accompanying booklet has some interesting titbits about the band and the four albums, along with some rare (and it has to be said entertaining) photos of the lads and their releases. Once again an excellent package from Captain Oi. File under essential. Ian Pickens

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