Friday, July 30, 2010

Scrambled Eggs: Coathangers Bring on the Grrrl Noise (CD Review) by Alison Ross

The Coathangers: Scramble
Reviewed by Alison Ross

The Coathanger's 2007 eponymous debut album was a brilliantly kitschy affair that nonetheless foreshadowed great things for the band, if only they would take themselves slightly more seriously.

On their 2009 release, Scramble, The Coathangers fulfill that prophecy a thousandfold. Their sonic template is denser and richer and their lyrical repertoire at once brasher and more tender. Their signature sassy humor is fully intact, and yet they don't hew to it quite as obstinately as on the first release. They have grown more confident in their artistry and so gimmicky flourishes like profane teen-angst song titles ("Don't Touch My Shit," "Shut the Fuck Up") are mostly absent, as endearing as those forays were.

Of course, cacophony informs who the Coathangers are, and so while there are transcendent melodies here (Dreamboat, Toomerhead, Sonic You (which showcases a truly sublime mellifluity) ), the nails-on-chalkboard prepubescent shrieks, throaty yelps, hoarse warbles, and abrasive fret-shredding are as proudly prominent as ever. But beneath the ferocious dissonance is genuine musical aptitude. The noisy aesthetic the girls have cultivated is not intended to disguise non-talent as it does with some bands. Rather, the scratchy screechy screamy assault forms the core of their sonic ethic. It's estrogen punk, and it's timelessly trashy and tasty.

Scramble is, as the name suggests, more diverse than its predecessor, and a wonderful harbinger of things to come. There is primal funk (Bobby Knows Best), along with punk freak-outs, rowdy rockers, woozy ballads, ironic 60s knock-offs, nostalgic new wave nods, and so on. The Coathangers have proven their sound to be eternally elastic, which should secure them a place in longevity's coveted garden.

One of the most notable things about Scramble is that infectious hooks aggressively abound, and bring to mind the Buzzcocks, early Cure, and the B-52s - and yet do not sound stagnant. The trade-off vocals among the girls, the cartoony circus organ touches, and ethereal piano shimmers add dynamic depth which dissuade accusations of derivativeness.

There is also an atonal artsyness and shambling asymmetry to Scramble. Indeed, successive obsessive listens to this album unfold a deliberate and barely controlled chaos that devolves into delirious disarray by album's end.

A most magnificent effort by a group of gritty girls boldly blasting through the barriers of boy-domineered territory with their saucy-feisty punk anthems. May success caress them with her manifold fortunes, because it's about fucking time.

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