Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hangin' with the Grrrrrrrrrls by Alison Ross (Music Review)

Hangin' with the Grrrrrrrrrls
by Alison Ross

If I am brutally honest with myself, I should have no problem publically acknowledging that I have always felt trepidation at the notion of sequestering myself into the typical functions of being a female. We are HUMANS first, genital apparatus be damned. Sure, there are differences between the genders, and sure, those differences should be celebrated rather than denigrated. But we are not so different that we must be so tightly confined into rigid roles.

So I have always had a problem with strict emphasis on societal role expectations for both men and women. Often women are held to be sacred - moral saints, really -  which actually angers me, because I find it disingenous, born of a provincial mindset that somehow thinks it is doing women a favor by holding us to such lofty heights. Women are fallible creatures with our own palette of pathologies. By the same token, it has often perturbed me that men are seen as wholesale devils. Men have many wonderful qualities and are often discriminated against with barely a protest from society, a bemusing situation, to say the least.

Indeed, misandry is an isidious force like misogny - but its presence is slyer, harder to discern because of our male-centric focus. I do believe that misandry and misogyny exist mutally - although of course misogyny is inarguably the more ghastly of the two, owing to the physical might of men.

The point of this gender tirade is that an all-girl group like The Coathangers brazenly explode notions of what it is to be female. They are crude, rude, and socially unacceptable, and all the more "female" because of it. They are crude and rude in a wholly FEMININE way. Most people view feminine ideals as those that encompass innocence, fragility and so on. But screw that. Women can be crass, and vulgar, and aggressive, and they can be that way within a feminine context. I don't purchase the idea that women who act crudely are mimicking male traits. Rather, there is female aggression, and male aggression. Male and female aggression may stem from a similar impetus, but I would not say that their expression is so identical as to be indistinguishable.

So The Coathangers (yes, their name is a vulgar allusion to unsavory abortion methods), on their self-titled album, exude their own brand of saucy irreverence through spiky, bouncy punk anthems. Not only is their music playfully boisterous, but the song titles and lyrics are impishly profane. Songs like "Nestle in My Boobies," "Shut the Fuck Up, and "Leave My Shit Alone" offer a tantalizing taste of the raunchy mischief that's served up in sassy bites.

At first listen, The Coathangers might scratch the eardrums a bit with shrieky, screechy vocals that evoke rather unfortunate nails-on-a-chalkboard or cat-in-heat sound effects. But as the album sinks into your subconscious, you find that the vocals grate less and less and that they make "sonic sense" within the context of the jagged Buzzcocks-meets-early-Cure style of punk and post-punk. Besides, as the album attests, the girls not only revel in cacophony, but they have harmonic potential as well, and are not fearful of embellishing their abrasive sound with geek-instruments like organs and accordians.

The Coathangers are yet another Atlanta band that is swifty gaining recognition. I'm eager to see them thrive internationally because we need more femme-bands to show the boyz how to kick ass, grrrrrl-style.

Machismo is SO 20th century. Bring on the Feministas!

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