As I've mentioned before, I don't think much of metal and hardcore as political tools. I won't get into the reasons here; it's worthy of its own post at some point. Suffice it to say that if you really want to effect social change, "form a metal band" should be pretty low on your roster of tactics.

And yet I find myself listening to a disproportionate quantity of political metal and hardcore. Even if such bands fail to achieve their overt goals, this stuff still appeals, and maybe for relatively obvious reasons. Politics makes for grittier subject matter than many stock metal topics do, for one thing. The emotional stakes are higher, and the subject matter is real-er, in even an ineffective polemic than in a song about Satan or dragons or what have you.

And not all political activity is goal-oriented. Some of it boils down to an expression of identity or attitude. I've seen the American Tea Party's tactics compared to performance art, and perhaps political metal and hardcore work the same way — the important part is not changing things, but merely to insist publicly that things should be changed. It's borderline impossible to get anything done in modern American politics, and if you're a political radical, the current state of affairs is incredibly frustrating. These styles of music are as good at expressing this feeling of disenfranchisement as any.

Which brings us to Philadelphia's Cop Problem. Cop Problem are an overtly political hardcore band in the leftist-punk tradition. Judging by their website, they play a lot of benefit shows for political prisoners. I am not likely to become an activist at their behest, but their music is worthwhile nonetheless.

Cop Problem play a metal-leaning style of hardcore that often gets tagged as "crust", but that doesn't sound especially crusty — it's of the hard-charging but melodic Tragedy / Catharsis variety. The band evidently recorded Buried Beneath White Noise in just two days. Good decision. This type of music does not benefit from excessive polish. The tones on this 4-song EP are clear but live-sounding, as punk recordings should be. Urgency and despondence come in equal measure: guitarist Randon Martin's melodies are sometimes so bright that they sound naïve, especially over Joshua Cohen's occasional blasts. Eventually, though, they always return to earth.

Vocalist Deb Cohen screams, but she articulates well enough that you can usually tell what she's saying. I suppose that's important when you're lecturing. Personally, I will remember these songs for their emotional charge, rather than for their specific message. This kind of reaction would probably frustrate most political bands, but it's a valuable one. Clearly-defined politics are not especially fashionable among rock musicians these days. To simply stand up and broach the subject, to declare that one has beliefs, will get people thinking about ideology, if only to reject yours. And it does require some measure of courage, even in the radicalism-friendly world of punk rock. Preaching to the choir is still a public speech.

Buried Beneath White Noise is available for paid download on Cop Problem's Bandcamp. A 7" version will be available from the PR agency Earsplit's new label imprint, The Compound, in the coming months.

— Doug Moore


Cop Problem tour dates

FRI.NOV.1.2013 - Charm City Art Space - Baltimore, MD %
SAT.NOV.2.2013 - The Murder Room - Pittsburgh, PA *
SUN.NOV.3.2013 - Now That?s Class - Cleveland, OH ^
MON.NOV.4.2013 - Center St Free Space - Milwaukee, WI #
TUE.NOV.5.2013 - The Sound Cellar - Chesterton, IN
WED.NOV.6.2013 - The Owl Farm - Nashville, TN +
THU.NOV.7.2013 - AL?s Sidecar - Lexington, KY +
FRI.NOV.8.2013 - The Poison Lawn - Knoxville, TN
SAT.NOV.9.2013 - Cafe Bourbon St. - Columbus, OH >

FRI.DEC.6.2013 ? Heirloom Arts Theatre - Danbury, CT ^^
SAT.DEC.7.2013 - The Acheron – Brooklyn, NY +
SUN.DEC.8.2013 - @TBA - Philadelphia +

% Earth First! Benefit
* with Complete Failure, Unstitched, Meth Quarry
^ with Grin And Bear It, Youth Forgotten
# with No Brainer
+ with Old Lines
with Old Lines, Wetbrain, Bastards
^^ with Old Lines, Bad Decisions


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