In a less connected age, a band like Bad Cop might have had difficulty finding its place—from Nashville but with no hint of country influence, forceful and energetic but not especially original. In a world less focused on speedy gratification, prizing the catchy rehash of incessantly familiar sounds, they might not even exist. In this case, that would be unfortunate, for despite the dog-eared familiarity of Bad Cop’s formula, the rote attitude, distortion, and thundering drums, Harvest the Beast remains a sincerely thrilling record.
Bad Cop’s members are just breaking into their 20s, and the band’s innate fluency with the requirements of this kind of music feels less learned than directly imparted from its elders. Their press release cites all kinds of influences, many of them accurate, but to talk about who Bad Cop sounds like ignores the inherently clustered nature of this style of brass-tacks rock n’ roll. Nearly everyone who practices it is emulating the same foundational bands, or bands that were inspired by those bands, meaning that the end result is less about assembling a careful gift basket from the sounds of ancestors than channeling the same basic spirit. This explains how Bad Cop, Black Flag, and Nickelback can all use the Doors as a reference point and end up with such radically different results. Basically, examining the roots of what makes Bad Cop work is like breaking open a light bulb to find out what makes it glow. Their songs excel by virtue of their forceful belief in their own greatness. The band’s energy is naïve and cocksure and infectious.
Harvest the Beast is consequently free from filler and sentimentalism, each song overflowing its edges and sloshing into the next. The charging tempo of “Daylight” tumbles into the snarling patter of “Big City Small Town,” which flips the previous song’s guitar riff and sutures it to a new pattern of storming drums. The album’s 10 songs imitate the vehicles in a multi-car accident, jostled and smashed by each other, and it’s never entirely clear how implicit the band is in this chaos. It’s much more enjoyable to just accept it as the stirring mettle of a group both sustained and threatened by its perspicacious immaturity, huddled beneath a shaggy quilt of sounds it has heard and loved and recreated.