Heathers, “Downtown Cop”

Post Author: Spencer Davis

As stories of police brutality surface from city to city, it is ever more difficult to deny the systemic nature of the violence. Much like Veronica, heroine of Heathers, a 1988 black comedy, HEATHERS—a garage punk trio from Montreal—feel overwhelmed by the destruction. Their new single, “DOWNTOWN COP,” expresses their frustration. Sludgy riffs, dirty, catchy hooks, a pounding backbeat, and yelping vocals are a sonic spear thrown at the heart of state violence.

The song and its accompanying video, recorded live at Soundhole, a new Montreal studio space, are as vital as they are visceral. The video cuts frantically between each member of HEATHERS as they upend the police/civilian power dichotomy. “Just what do you think you’re doing/walking around downtown/a thousand of your friends behind you:” a pointed query often heard from mouths in blue is now bent back, questioning their legitimacy. It’s mirror violence, at once reclaiming agency in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and making legible the horrors of the originary brutality.

Though the studio space is new, the oppression is not. HEATHERS are a part of Saturn Returns,

A queer feminist collective of musicians and artists working to build welcoming spaces for accessible music creation, distribution, and performance in occupied Kanien’kehá:ka territory (Montréal). We are committed to mutual support in these areas, through shared labour around logistics, finances, and promotion. We seek to spread queer noise in order to ground ourselves and others in times of prolonged upheaval and change. We are guided by anti-oppressive and anti-capitalist frameworks. We aim to encourage each other to experiment, take creative risks, and have fun.

Contextualized by North American colonization and genocide, “DOWNTOWN COP” becomes as once despondent and gentle. Despondent because the racial violence is truly monolithic; gentle because the quiet resistance of a group of people supporting each other ruptures it—in their words, “burn[s] it down to the ground.”