It’s fitting that The Coathangers release their new record – The Devil You Know – on International Women’s Day. This is punk music delivered with a righteous feminine fury.
The Coathangers have been around for a long time now – well over a decade – and this record, their sixth, is quite possibly their best (or at least on par with 2014’s Suck My Shirt… what a record that is!) They have always managed to find new angles and aspects of punk rock with which to occupy themselves, from the fiery fuzz of Hüsker Dü to the bombast of The Pixies, blended with a torrid beauty in the form of some rather excellent ballads. Julia Kugel, Meredith Franco and Stephanie Luke make some of the most enjoyable garage-punk out there, and this record is no different.
Here, there are more than a few highlights to be found. Foremost amongst these choice cuts is the glorious power-pop swagger of Hey Buddy, with barbed lyrics and gleaming riffs – the lyrics are delightfully anti-homophobia, anti-preacher, anti-regular-job… and we all need a little more of that.
Roaring bass guitar powers through Crimson Telephone, and bounces along in Memories: bassist Meredith Franco is clearly the not-so secret weapon in the group. Her basslines are varied and bewitching – particularly on Memories, where the bass makes the song sound straight out of New York. Memories sounds like a cross-pollination of the earliest material by Talking Heads, Devo and the B–52s – when they all used their guitars as weapons, not synths.
There are a few strange, bewildering oddball-punk numbers (think The Specials, Siouxsie and the Banshees): Step Back is the heavier of the lot, primarily due to the crunching riff blasting through the speakers. The heaviness is leavened by sweet vocals. The drums owe a lot to classic rock too, which is a welcome surprise. Even odder is Stranger Danger, which is psychedelic in flavour: it gets close to the ghostly twang of Roky Erickson and the buzzing menace of The Black Angels.
Then they switch that out for the sleek, lithe indie rock of Bimbo, where they sound like contemporaries The Growlers, or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Political anthem Fuck the NRA goes back to the B-52s for the verses (with a touch of the Stooges), then switches to Black Flag skater punk for the choruses. Absolutely marvelous.
Over the years, great rock bands and rock figureheads have been ignored or undervalued because they’re women or focus on the female perspective. Kim Gordon was always more fun than Thurston, Kim Deal always more engaging than Frank Black, The Ronettes were infinitely better than just about any contemporary male rockers, Warpaint should be headlining festivals instead of whatever boring white-bread indie darlings were anointed this year… And let’s not get started on how the hell the world doesn’t know every single word to every single song by The Raincoats and every single tune by Lizzy Mercier Descloux…
Put simply, you should not deprive yourself of The Coathangers for a second longer.