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Swans Cop album cover
3.41 | 51 ratings | 5 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1984

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Half Life (4:18)
2. Job (4:46)
3. Why Hide (5:50)
4. Clay Man (5:05)
5. Your Property (4:48)
6. Cop (6:47)
7. Butcher (4:02)
8. Thug (5:12)

Total time 40:48

Bonus tracks on 1991 CD release:
- "Young God" EP -
9. "I Crawled" (5:40)
10. "Raping a Slave" (6:22)
11. "Young God" (7:03)
12. "This Is Mine" (5:24)

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Gira / vocals, tapes, co-producer
- Norman Westberg / guitar
- Harry Crosby / bass
- Roli Mosimann / drums, tapes, co-producer

Releases information

LP K.422 ‎- KCC 1 (1984, UK)

CD K.422 - KCC 001 CD (1991, UK) With 4 bonus tracks, from 1984 "Young God" EP

Thanks to The Truth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SWANS Cop ratings distribution

(51 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)

SWANS Cop reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dobermensch
3 stars 'Cop' sounds like black metal in slow motion. Like watching a train crash frame by frame on slow play DVD. It's Swans most extreme recording by a long way where Roli Mosimann's drums hammer over and over driving nails into your skull as both guitarists screech out the most unpleasant dirge you're likely to hear this side of Sirius. Everything bar the vocals sounds like it's being played at half speed. And the drums are loud. Really loud! Not only that but they constantly have a heavy decay and booming effect throughout.

Coupled with Gira's gut wrenching wails and visceal utterings, it's one of the most intense albums you're likely to find in the Prog Archives. The doubled vocal tracks certainly lifts this immeasurably and leaves it sounding greater than the sum of its parts.

This is Swans just before Jarboe (female singer) joined, where everything sounds soaked in male testosterone and sweat. A nasty, brutal and uncompromising album from beginning to end. Beware: if you're looking for something uplifting with musical finesse look far, far away from 'Cop'.

This is serial killer soundtrack material. A feeling of hopelessness and and anger is present from the outset - and it's pretty much relentless. You're unlikely to hear such self loathing on any recording from '84 to present day.

Quite honestly though, there's nothing that sounds like 'Cop' anywhere and that's why I have a fair amount affinity with it. The confrontational angst which runs throughout will be more than most sensible or normal folks can handle. Thankfully, I'm not normal nor sensible, therefore it hits all the happy buttons with me. A cathartic experience for anyone's mind that is full of dark ugly thoughts.

My personal favourite track is 'Clay Man' - replete with growling, shouted vocals amidst a one chord thumped bass note that is enough to make you think that Michael Gira has his hands in someone's entrails with a face covered in blood as he spits and wrenches out lyrics such as 'Your flesh is easy, your flesh is soft, the shame, the shame'. Sledgehammer drums with echoed high hats only add to the disturbing atmosphere. Scary biscuits indeed!

There's no light at the end of this long dark tunnel. Goodness knows who I can recommend this to. It's just too extreme and heavy for this website, but I'm glad it's here.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars AllMusic calls this album one of the most darkest albums ever recorded. I have to agree. This is dark sludgy metal, brutal to the bone with no light whatsoever. Grinding metal, slow pounding drums and deep dark vocals run through the entirety of this album. Listening to this, you have to admire the focus and the determination to keep this music at an almost constant tempo, slow and trodding, like a herd of dinosaurs wading through a thick tar pit with no hope of deliverance. Each track features a gruesome sounding guitar hook that is mostly played over and over with a thumping bass. There is some amount of melody apparent in a few tracks, like "Butcher". The vocals, sounding more like chants from a prehistoric tribe at times and other times like crazed horror movie murderers, are sometimes repetitive and other times exploratory. The main theme here apparently is sexual domination and submission. To me, there is nothing sexual about it, but I guess we all have our own tastes. But I do have a degree of appreciation for the way the sound is explored.

Anyway, it's a tough one to listen to, but if you love this kind of music, it seems to me that it is interesting enough and would be one that you would enjoy. The production isn't bad either. This music is a far cry from what would come later. A female vocalist would be added after the release of this album which would bring some needed variety to the sound of The Swans. Also, more ingenuity would be added to the music, hence the reason why this music is included in the Archives. It is actually quite surprising that buried in this music is ingenuity. As you slog your way through their discography, you will continue to hear the evolution of their sound. As far as this album, there unfortunately is not a lot of prog, but you can hear a tendency to post metal, and this will eventually evolve to full fledged math rock. As for this album, we will have to settle for 3 stars. Good, but non- essential.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Swans take doom metal riffs, post-punk production and disturbing lyrics and sort of mash them up into an unbelievably ugly gumbo on Cop, their second album. Howling about police brutality, heartache, jobs and violence, frontman Michael Gira is backed by riffs that sound like the world's roof falling in. Pegged by some as noise rock (and good golly is it noisy), I personally see it as a precedent for Black Flag's latter-day experiments in slowing their riffs down and getting weird (see, for instance, The Process of Weeding Out). Just about saved from doom metal territory by virtue of a complete lack of 1970s nostalgia or stoner pipe dreams, Cop is a cold, hard look at an ugly reality.
Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars While many will claim that the 80s were one of the worst decades for music but i must disagree wholeheartedly since some of the most original thinking musical entities emerged from this period. On the aggressive side of the musical equation, the punk and metal that had been gaining steam in the late 70s and early 80s really took off during this period. While punk and post-punk had splintered into a gazillion subgenera, metal on the other hand was only starting to see the potential of different styles emerging from the hard rock that had developed it a decade before. Out of all this craziness came SWANS whose unique style to this day is unclassifiable as they exist in their own musical universe but was even more the case in their beginning days. This NYC band led by Michael Gira existed in a strange gray area between punk and metal although they were technically part of the short-lived no wave noise rock movement.

Their debut album "Filth" set the tone for their abrasive unrelenting assault on melody with undulating waves of distorted noise grinding in a jarring rhythmical fashion like a thousand jackhammers pounding the city streets in unison and only slightly deviating from each other until a true cacophonous din results. On their second album COP, the band of four continues this aggressive assault and takes it even further with even heavier bombastic drum and bass beats accompanied by screeching downtuned and dissonant guitar riffs along with Gira's tortured soul vocalizations that preceded the world of black and death metal by several years. It's no wonder that early SWANS have been cited as one of the major influences for the heavy down and dirty approach of sludge metal because the thick guitar riffs that buzz to infinity create one of the loudest albums of the early 80s as if the band recorded this in a deep industrial bunker in the darkest recesses of the cockroach filled underbellies of a post-apocalyptic world.

While many comparisons have been made with doom metal and i can honestly see those connections, i find COP is more of a unique fusion of snarling punk attitudinal posturing with heavily cranked up adrenaline inducing distortion from the guitar and bass akin to the early extreme metal of Venom and Hellhammer with a bombastic drone-like march of a souless percussive drive that hypnotizes by sheer brutal force. Part of the allure is the ambiguousness of the subject matter at hand with lyrics flirting with scenes of sexual domination in unseen corners in dimly lit dungeons. The tempo on COP is much slower than "Filth" which adds a sense of valium laden dread to the abrasiveness of the fuzzed out guitar tones grinding the eardrums into audio submission like the morbidly obese woman on the cover depicts in utter despair. COP took the art of ugliness to perfect heights as the holy trinity of audio, visual and emotional impact impaled the listener from all angles.

COP is almost universally deemed SWANS' most brutal album and i doubt anyone could disagree once encountering this seductively repulsive sonic terror. If the guitar dissonance and vocal anguish wasn't enough, the drum and bass experience a hypnotic repertoire that is jagged with off-kilter time signatures that succeed in disrupting melodic flow in every way possible. Both "Filth" and "Cop" as well as the two EPs of the same era are cited as a major influence on bands like Godflesh, The Young Gods and the 90s sludge gods Neurosis with an almost tribal rhythmic drive gone horribly wrong into arhythmic sado-masochistic sonic torture sessions. This is not one for the faint-hearted by any means. After this album, Gira would incorporate the feminine charm of Jarboe to the band's sound which would change the band's style and sound drastically. However on COP, these guys pumped out one of the most monstrous and tenebrous death marches of all the early 80s. While bleak, this stuff is morbidly beautiful in its own way as it creates its own musical lexicon.

Review by Kempokid
3 stars Swans' second album is a very different beast from its predecessor, while still being extremely heavy, more so than 'Filth'. All of the pure fury present in 'Filth' has be taken away, and while it definitely keeps the no-wave sound, it is also extremely sludgy. Each note played is dragged out, the percussion being noisy and abrasive, and instruments screeching and the songs really dwelling on particular vocal lines, as was the case with 'Filth' as well. Even Michael Gira's vocals are nothing like what they were before, without any angered, aggressive screaming, instead with him drawling and groaning, further adding to the extremely strange, unpleasant, sometimes nauseating soundscape that this alum creates. However, despite how impressively heavy this album is, I honestly prefer 'Filth', as I find this album to honestly feel somewhat boring by the end, as every song sounds more or less the same, and while there are some better cuts such as 'Half Life' and 'Cop' which do stand out somewhat, in part due to the more memorable vocal lines giving something to latch onto, the majority of them are extremely interchangeable, and while on one hand, this keeps the album consistent, it also makes the album feel 5 times longer than it is. The bottom line is, while this album is extremely impressive in its own right, I personally do not enjoy listening to it that much. Despite this, I definitely can see the merit here, with such crushingly heavy music expertly creating a soundscape that simply drags you into the music. While 'Filth' was repeatedly bashing you over the head, 'Cop' instead takes another approach, burying you under the layers of noise instead.

Best Songs: Half Life, Cop

Weakest Songs: Clay Man

Verdict: Heavier than their debut album, with a sludgier sound and some extremely immersive soundscapes. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of heaviness, but otherwise would advise that you give this one a miss, as you'll find nothing of interest here.

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