Hobocop, “Half Man, Half Cop” 10-inch

cover - hobocopHobocop‘s Half Man, Half Cop is just the right amount of lo-fi. It’s not quite as rudimentary as Apache Dropout, but it’s fuzzy and dirty. The fuzz and distortion works with the music, though, rather than obscuring good songwriting. “Stench of Death” especially benefits from some extra dirt on its sludged-out garage guitar. The whole lo-fi aesthetic gives everything a sense of mystery — is that keyboard or a weird guitar effect? Is that an acoustic bass or a weird guitar effect?

The element of mystery makes the whole Hobocop thing entertainingly strange. You’ll accept the fact that “Fairweather Scum” is remarkably catchy, despite the fact you’ve little-to-no idea what’s being sung. Just lock onto “yeah yeah”s and “whoo-hoo”s whenever possible, and use those as your guideposts to take you from mumbled guesses to enthusiastic and confident sing-along.

The downside is that Half Man, Half Cop would be an excellent record to crank, were it a little more cleanly recorded. Even at reasonable volume, it sounds as if your speakers are blown out. “California Biodome” sounds as if your stereo is dying in a fit of feedback and wa-wa wash, and I fear to think what might happen if I decided to push the volume any more than I already did.

I’m all for punk brevity, but another flipside is that some of these songs seem more like sketches or incomplete ideas than actual finished pieces. “Big Deal” is just shouted “BIG! DEAL!” and “You’re not a big deal!” — seeming more like the bridge and chorus for a song that could use a verse or two of actual lyrics. “LIttle Green Bills” is much the same, but with a piano line and ground-out guitar line supplementing the titular (and only) lyrics.

If the short, “conceptual” pieces were cut, you’d be left with a fine 7-inch. As it is, Hobocop’s Half Man, Half Cop is still a fun listen, if a little incomplete. The album is due out next week from Slovenly, but you can pre-order it right now.