The cover of the album--a screaming child, a background of duct tape--gives a good first impression of "Ask Questions Later," by newcomers Cop Shoot Cop. "Ask Questions Later" is the first step for a group too brave to let a hint of police violence keep them from having fun.
The work shows the musical versatility of a band that resists being labeled. Calling Cop Shoot Cop a modern, industrial or hard- core band wouldn't be factual, because the band does one of the most daring things a band can do--try to make a new niche for themselves in the music world.
The opening song on the album sounds more like it belongs with Nine Inch Nails. The music is loud, the metal is ringing and the singer's voice is growling out pessimistic views with a nefarious skill. Instead of putting one of the band members in front of a microphone, the band could have sawed the trunk of a talking tree and received the same quality. The band seems to know this, though, and says in the credits that a band member did the "griping," not the singing.
In fact, the word "singing" doesn't even appear in the lyrics sheet, the band opting for much more realistic descriptions like "whining," "complaining" and "screaming." This is either a band with great sense of reality or an odd sense of taste.
What is interesting about "Questions" is that the music starts to soften without mellowing as the CD continues. The first songs are ruled by hard beats, jawbreaker samples and intense bass work. For example, the title of the hard-hitting "Surprise, Surprise" is more than just creative use of a comma. It signifies the look you get on your face when you realize that the lyrics in the song don't even have to be there.
As the album plays, however, the sound style starts to switch, so that instead of spewing pure energy, it builds suspense, like a good horror movie soundtrack.
The shift starts to kick into gear with the fourth track, "Cut to the Chase." While still brandishing good bass playing and skillful tone variations, this song adds one more thing--real violin music.
The violin's whiny sound changes the screams into crying while supported by the growling vocals, or rather, growling "microphone." It ends up with a crackling sound in a Middle Eastern style that tells us the band really is creative.
The violin isn't the only out-of-the-ordinary instrument that Cop Shoot Cop can tame. "$10 Bill" gets all of its beat from a militaristic snare drum, "Everybody Loves You (When You're Dead)" features a piano trawling through what this band might call a ballad.
By the time the album works it's way to track 10, the lyrics and the music have almost completely separated, as in the song "Cause and Effect." It gives the band's blood pressure a rest by playing hard and then slowing things down for the "screaming." This technique makes the song sound as if the lead singer played a horn. If nothing else, this is a new effect, and finally draws some attention to the words.
The quality of the lyrics is far from consistent, sometimes saying something profound but at other times sounding cliched. Instead of making a good delivery of the lyrics, the band makes them seem as if they were bought from a poetry vendor in the Square. And Cop Shoot Cop unfortunately bought just enough cliches so that their musical skill really has to work to make up for them.
This isn't too surprising--any band that would have a grammatical error in its name wouldn't really care about having the lyrics make sense. Again, the band seems to know their own flaws and cleverly places three instrumental pieces in the album.
Since the band's strengths are in the music, these instrumentals have solid sounds that continue to switch from stony to eerie In the song "Seattle," wordless except for the occasional "Seattle," the samples make you perk your ears and wonder what the track would sound like backwards. Otherwise, the instrumentals continue with the band's quality noise.
And that's really what the album is, quality noise. Although the lyrics sound as if they were sung by the boy wailing on the album cover, the music was definitely not played by him. A strong bass and an industrial twist to the music that can be jazzy, creepy or angry make Cop Shoot Cop a band you can't put your finger on, but you'd love to have in your hand.