If you've still got a swollen head from St. Patrick's Day, you may want to dim the lights and pop an ibuprofen or three before pressing play on the self-titled debut EP from Morrisville's the Cop Outs. In the tradition of the Pogues, Flogging Molly and, most recently, the Dropkick Murphys, the quintet trades in a rambunctious fusion of traditional Irish music and punk rock made for whiskey-soaked nights at the pub. Actually, I take that first sentence back. If you're still hung over and cursing the patron saint of Ireland, throw down a Guinness and a shot of Jameson and suck it up, sissy.
As the band members themselves point out on the CD's second track, "Ireland," the Cop Outs ain't Irish. "We may not be from Ireland, but the whiskey, beer and soul are deep within," they sing in typically swaying, shout-along Irish-punk fashion. While not quite as hard as the Dropkicks — the genre's modern standard- bearers — the famed Boston band is likely the most reasonably close comparison. Musically, the Cop Outs sometimes trend closer to the trad influences of the Pogues, with fiddler Darcy Cahill and multi-instrumentalist Dale Cahill often front and center and adding reeling Celtic flair. But the Cop Outs' front man, Jay Knecht, lacks the roguish charm of Shane MacGowan — certainly no crime there, and he'll probably live a lot longer because of it. Instead, he mostly favors a blunter punk approach.
The Cop Outs are, in essence, a bar band. But they're a wildly entertaining one. And despite its issues of cultural appropriation, veering on caricature, that are evident in certain tunes — the aforementioned "Ireland," for one — the band has a genuine affinity for the Emerald Isle. Consider its rousing take on the traditional reel "Road to Lisdoonvarna," in which they ably meld punk snarl with Celtic roots.
The Cop Outs are also willing to lampoon stereotypes closer to home, rather than just playing up bloated Irish boilerplates, as on "Straight White Girl Wasted." Fueled by a sprightly and familiar fiddle line, the song eviscerates the scourge of obscenely drunk white girls. It's off color, sure. But it's also funny — especially if you've ever seen SWGWs in action.
This debut could have used an upgrade in the production department. It generally plays a little flat, which saps some of its urgency. Still, it's fun little EP. And it suggests the band is best experienced at your favorite dive, sloshing pints and shouting along in the company of friends.
The Cop Outs play the Tamarack Grill at Burke Mountain this Friday, March 20, and Charlie-O's World Famous in Montpelier this Saturday, March 21.