Boxset review: Cock Sparrer – The Albums 1994-2017

Cock Sparrer  The Albums 1994-2017 (Captain Oi!/Cherry Red Records)
Cock Sparrer The Albums 1994-2017 (Captain Oi!/Cherry Red Records)

For a band who have been going more than 45 years, it’s fair to say London street punk legends Cock Sparrer are less than prolific.

Seven studio albums (and a handful of live efforts) is the sum total of their recorded output in all that time, yet they still headline festivals and fill concert halls all over the world.

Cock Sparrer frontman Colin McFaull doing what he does best. Pic: Norman Sansom.

Cock Sparrer frontman Colin McFaull doing what he does best. Pic: Norman Sansom.

They’re a band who were never big back in the heyday of punk, but their reputation has grown with the passing of years, and their live show has to be experienced to be believed.

On record, however, they can be a bit hit and miss, as evidenced by this second 4CD boxset of their studio work, spanning the years 1994-2017. The first set, covering the years 1978-87, is reviewed HERE.
Disc one is 1994 comeback album Guilty As Charged, their first release since 1987’s Live And Loud and their first new material in 10 years.

Originally released by German label Bitzcore, it’s a bit of a tentative return, but has its moments, with the standout track being Because You’re Young, which has become a staple of their live set.

The original 11-song album is bolstered by seven bonus cuts featured on the various versions of the hard-to-find Run Away EP, which includes three studio tracks and four more recorded live.

Cock Sparrer are a band whose reputation has grown with the passing of the years.

Cock Sparrer are a band whose reputation has grown with the passing of the years.

The second disc is 1997’s Two Monkeys album, also released on Bitzcore, and it’s another 11 slices of anthemic street punk in classic Sparrer style.

AU, East End Girl and their cover of the England 1970 World Cup song Back Home are among the highlights included in the 13 tracks, though, unlike the 2009 Captain Oi! reissue, it doesn’t include any extra material.

The last song on the album, Goodbye, was meant to be just that after 25 years, but they couldn’t let it lie, and the third disc here, Here We Stand, was released in 2007, a whole decade after their last release.

It’s a huge return to form, with one working class anthem following another, and some of the songs on here are right up there with their best work.

Cock Sparrer still headline festivals and pack out venues wherever they play. Pic: Norman Sansom.

Cock Sparrer still headline festivals and pack out venues wherever they play. Pic: Norman Sansom.

Gotta Get Out, Did You Have A Nice Life Without Me?, Better Than This, Spirit of 76, Last Orders and Suicide Girls are all Sparrer classics, which don’t get aired nearly often enough live due to the strength of their back catalogue.

There’s two bonus tracks - a 2008 version of Because You’re Young, and a new take of probably their best-known song, England Belongs To Me, used by mixed martial arts champion Dan Hardy as his entrance music before his UFC fights.

The set is completed by their most recent release, last year’s Forever, again their first new music in a decade, and given the age of the band, possibly their final album.

From opener One By One to the closing We’re The Good Guys, there’s not a duff song among the 16 tracks, which sum up the whole sense of community, family and friendship that Cock Sparrer are all about.

Cock Sparrer remain a popular live draw, even if commercial success has always eluded them. Pic: Norman Sansom.

Cock Sparrer remain a popular live draw, even if commercial success has always eluded them. Pic: Norman Sansom.

Everyone will have their own favourites, but street punk doesn’t get much better than Gonna Be Alright, Every Step Of The Way, Us Against The World, and, my personal favourite, Contender.

If Forever does prove to be their swansong, it’s a superb way to say goodbye, as it’s one of the best punk albums in years. If you only know Cock Sparrer’s early work, this boxset is essential, particularly for the last two discs. 8/10.