Though most of the country may not altogether agree with me, I find division to be a divinely beautiful thing in a life so wrought with scorn, travesty and pastel-hued ninniness, whatever that is. I’ll concede as much to the notion that polarization does little for politics—even though I too support that—but it does wonders for art. Often one can come to appreciate a band far more if it is some love them with the same tenacity for which others revile them. There are more than a few examples I can name, and, much to the surprise of many I take it, some of them aren’t even barely listenable noise rock bands. The Gin Blossoms could very well make a comeback with the help of some dedicated cult creeping somewhere in some nearby woods, even if they do suck, but I digress. The Coathangers have the very vibe of which its glories I preach. Listening to but a few songs off of this record gives off one of two possible impressions: these are intense, in not fun-loving artists, or simple dolts in ways of properness and technique.
It would seem that two camps will and perhaps already have formed around them and their style professing two starkly opposing summaries, if they can, in fact, be summarized. On the one side you’ll have those in favor of the “sensitive.” The other side being in favor of the “incompetent.” The sensitive camp are of the opinion that The Coathangers’ preference for demo-dirty studio production as well as seemingly atonal instrumentation and minimalist song structuring is deliberate, indicative of a state of mind that puts ideas like “art” and perhaps even “fun” over other ideas like “technique.” The other camp, the incompetent camp, as one can guess, favor the opposite and think that The Coathangers, no matter how much in the right they are for existing in the first place, shall never not suck if this is the direction they so choose or are simply limited to in their creation and execution.
When looking at the sum of the album as opposed to its parts, one can no doubt detect, even from the first few seconds, that The Coathangers have no intention on upholding the manners instilled in them during childhood, let alone in a studio setting. Provocation and the making of messes are the orders of everyday for an indefinite period, and where the lo-fi production merely hints, the attitude takes it all the way to deep black certainty.
While it could, in part, be chalked up to low-rate musicianship in some respects, one can’t ignore that there is a certain acerbic quality to the primal riffs and the generally skin-crawl noise. It’s a purist punk that plays like a rebuke to the Strokes near-robotic aesthetic of “yeah, we’re weird and retarded but look at what we can do for two minutes and change without missing a chord!” Perhaps the cleanest playing on the album is the bassist whose lines play fluidly to the ear and glue-like when playing with the less-founded instruments. Vocals switch between matter-of-fact yelps and shrill howling and shrieking which spew forth poetry from a gutter that is particularly muddy. Many of the songs can pass as anthems for the constantly agitated including “Arthritis Sux” (“Rheumatoid/ I’m annoyed /I can’t move/ Fight, fight, fight“) and the blatantly sarcastic as evidenced in “143” (“Saw you walkin’ down the hall/ You were drinkin’ alcohol/ I’m so glad you never call/ I love you!“). There are more pleasant songs in the album however, in particular, “Dreamboat,” which has the same lyrical grime of the other songs but rendered more sweetly and set to simple chords under the influence of early retro pop. And as “Killdozer” might hint, someone in the band is a fan of Theodore Sturgeon.
Though this is nothing one can say is new, it is nonetheless fresh compared to the over production and dependence on technique rather than feeling or atmosphere. I’m sure there are those who can outplay any member in their respective instruments —although the bassist will be a bit of a challenge—that is, of course, hardly the point. For as much as it would be nice to better oneself as a musician, it also compromises one’s penchant for being a fucker. It is good for the world to have a band such as this one. Imagine, if you will, a world in which meth heads, teenage runaways and temp workers can, possibly for the first time in recent memory, have common ground. Thanks to The Coathangers, these scraps of societal refuse can pow wow in unison to the primal beat and infernal buzz that reflects their collective psychological damage.