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The Coathangers

The Coathangers - The Coathangers ©2007 Rob's House Records
1. "Why This Record" Intro
2. Tonya Harding
3. Wreckless Boy
4. Haterade
5. "A Real Honey"
6. Shut The Fuck Up
7. Parking Lot
8. Buckhead Betty
9. Don't Touch My Shit!
10. "Roll Dem Dice"
11. Parcheezzi
12. Where The Hell Were You?
13. "Fatty Pad"
14. Nestle In My Boobies
15. Bloody Shirt
16. The Missing Letter
17. "Larger Success" Outro

I couldn't help but be taken by total surprise when I saw The Coathangers for the first time, which must've been at some point in late 2008, perhaps early 2009. The show was some freebie sponsored by WUAG, the local college radio station here in Greensboro, and typical to any local show, my expectations were rather low. Like many college towns, Greensboro's music scene has an unfortunate predilection for cloying indie rock, and even worse, "post-rock", a lifeless offshoot of indie music epitomized by bands like Godspeed, You Black Emperor! and Tortoise. These groups, who are all the rage to ape in Greensboro, attempt to transcend conventional rock and roll in favor of dull ambient music, which they nonetheless play on rock instruments – vocals, hooks, and energy be damned. Yet if a music scene's health is measured by the amount of people who come out, then Greensboro nonetheless enjoys a healthy independent music scene - but it's also one far too austere and humorless for me to appreciate on any sort of meaningful level. Still, going out to a presumably boring show is theoretically better than not going out at all, so here I was again in the middle of the afternoon at another music event, not expecting to like anything I was about to see or hear. Suffice to say, I was overjoyed when my expectations were greatly exceeded.

Although they had the middle billing, The Coathangers clearly and seemingly easily blew everybody off the stage (or, more accurately, the space allotted on the floor for the bands) that day. Before even playing a note, their presence was undeniable: four giggling girls of assorted heights, hair colors, and degrees of tattoo coverage, beaming bright, wearing tastefully shredded clothing and generally looking positively electric – especially when compared to the dour earth tones and sour demeanors which characterized the local joyless vegan-straight edge-anarcho-marxist version of "punk" which predominates in Greensboro. I didn't know who they were, but I sure as hell knew they weren't from around here – and, in my mind, all the better for it. They seemed different, and for anybody who has become bored with their surroundings, as I severely was, different is almost always good.

They plugged in, introduced themselves, and by gum – they were better than good – they were utterly fantastic! They played a loud, shambling, art-damaged (read: they had noisy keyboards) version of rock and roll that unpretentiously sat somewhere between garage, punk, and riot grrrl, yet harboring neither the retrophilia, boring clichιs, or obvious, heavy-handed polemics which seem to characterize most bands who dabble in such genre sounds these days. Songs subjects (from what I could make out) included hitting people, stuff breaking, and nestling in breasts. Everybody in the band sang, instruments were switched around throughout the set, and by the time the music was finished I wanted to hear it all again. Their sound was at once girly, aggressive and playful, but most important of all, it was fun. Fun, like music was when I first got into it via The Misfits and The Ramones. Fuck post rock! I was (and am) firmly stuck in rock, and finally, I'd at last found a new band that could deliver! Subsequently, The Coathangers became my favorite "new" band (as in, formed within the first decade of the 2000s), and I've thus made it a point of catching every show they've played in my neck of the woods since – and recommend you do the same, should they play your town as well. You won't be let down.

This self-titled album represents the long-player debut of The Coathangers, appropriately recorded live, loud, and a tinge dirty in the studio. As mentioned before, all four of The Coathangers (Julia, Meredith, Candice, and Stephanie, by name) sing all over these shambling-but-rockin' songs, but most of the lead vocals are split and contrasted between guitarist Julia, who has a chirpier, sing-songy timbre, and drummer Stephanie, who employs a more of a throaty shout. Musically, I've heard The Coathangers compared to seminal post-punks The Slits, but I don't really see or hear much of a connection to that dub-infused outfit beyond the fact that both bands happen to feature an all-girl personnel. To my ears, the loopy song structures, shouty group vocals, minimalistic but prominent keyboard lines, and generally rude stomp-sing-n-snarl actually have a lot more in common with the bizarre 60's garage beat of The Monks (just consider The Monks' "Shut Up" (off of their immortal Black Monk Time album) compared with The Coathangers' (fantastic) "Shut The Fuck Up"). Further on the garage-punk tip, Julia's vocals at times are somewhat reminiscent of chief Headcoat Billy Childish (if, perhaps, Billy Childish was a woman), and the music is all-in-all held together by a loose, youthful abandon which would cause some to dismiss the performances hereon as "sloppy" or "amateuristic", and others to praise them as "genuine" and "energetic". I'll give you three guesses which camp I fall into, and the first two don't count.

The songwriting itself on this album is actually quite diverse, running the gamut between fun, snotty punk ("Tonya Harding"), delightful summertime pop ("Parking Lot"), annoying but irresistibly catchy dance music (the Meredith-sung "Nestle In My Boobies"), and a couple of adorable campfire singalongs ("Buckhead Betty" and "Bloody Shirt"). Some indie pop finds its way into the mix in the form of "The Missing Letter", but worry not: while the pop tones are indeed sweet, they never reach the point of sounding nauseatingly cheesy or saccharine, and they serve well to the overall variety of this album. Mostly though, sparing the lattermost three tracks mentioned, the songs overall are bright, loud, and noisy (like a good rock album should be), and just about all quite memorable to boot. Then, biff, bang, pow! The whole thing is done and over before it can even begin to approach tedium, clocking in at a brisk thirty minute run time. In terms of presentation, songwriting, and pacing on this album, The Coathangers nail it again and again – how could I not love this stuff?

So, to conclude, if the public knows what's good for them (and they often don't), The Coathangers will get bigger. As much as I hate to admit it, I don't trust that it'll happen in a music climate where electro-pop nonsense commands $25 a ticket while the best newer touring bands have to hack it out for $12, but perhaps it's better that way for fans of honest rock music anyhow. One way or another, so long as the band supplies it, I'll keep going to the shows and listening to the albums. This fine release is but one clear indication that pre-post rock sure isn't dead – and thank this band for it! If you dig rough playing, great hooks, and swoon for that proverbial , primordial "rock energy" that music nerds love to talk about as being supposedly extinct in today's contemporary pop music landscape, then The Coathangers may just be your new favorite band. Do yourself a favor and don't miss out on this fantastic band.

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 12/2010

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