It’s a dangerous proposition for someone who’s made their name outside heavy music circles to come out and say “I’m going to do a metal thing now,” especially with the sudden rise in hipster attention on metal of late and the backlash that engenders. But Iowa City’s renowned spazzy singer-songwriter Samuel Locke-Ward is the type of artist who would do something like Cop Bar not out of naivete or dilletantism but out of a mix of restless creative energy and fearlessness. Besides, metal kinda suits Sam in a way: his songs have always walked in dark places even when they’ve been presented in gentle folky arrangements. Furthermore, in his more intense moments as a performer, his voice has been known to lapse into a kind of strangled growl that in retrospect does have a bit of grindcore in it. He’s a longtime fan of the heavy stuff, besides.
Cop Bar is not quite the typical grindcore or hardcore band, though. It wouldn’t be like Sam to do anything the normal or typical way. I’m pretty sure there’s no other band this metallic sounding that would open an album with a guest appearance via voice-mail by R. Stevie Moore. Alongside the averaging-one-minute songs, chugging crust riffs, and blastbeats, No Justice Just Law bears the unmistakeable Samuel Locke-Ward stamp in its lyrical themes, multiple-personality-disorder vocal role-playing, screwball sense of humor, and basement 4-track production, all combining to make this a take on brutality that you most likely haven’t heard before. Sam’s brother-in-law Andy is along on drums, a fellow named Brando is on guitar, and there is no bass, and they take to hammering home these tunes with an appealing bluntness.
If I had any quibble it would be with the closing track “Jesus Saves” as it’s chorus is basically a direct rephrasing of that of “Save The Daughter” from Sam’s solo debut, the self-released CD-R EP Harness The Power Of Lightening, and recycles a lyrical trope that he’s pretty much beaten to death by ths point; indeed, Sam’s jabs at Christianity are starting to get a bit hackneyed and predictable to someone who’s followed his career since the beginning. But this is probably not going to be a problem for most, especially if this is your introduction to Sam’s unique brand of madness. So order up this cassette for $3 right now at Sam’s web site and bang your fucking head.