Atlanta’s Coathangers have been dividing audiences with their music, straddling that very shaky divide between sublime shambles (otherwise known as the Billy Childish line) and “Oh god I’m fucking walking out of here” shambles. Scramble really isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. It’s like a more unfocused, unhinged Vivian Girls, taking in and spewing out the likes of Bratmobile, the Slits, the Buggles, the Husbands, Marine Girls, EARLY Cure and Scratch Acid. Vocals are shouted out grindcore style, one low and raw, one high and shouty, drums a brutish trample, dubby bass and guitars are all spidery and entwined like Gang of Four, and weirdo haunted house keyboards add the final flourishes, all impulsively tripping over one another. During like half of Scramble, I’m thinking, jesus, even for me this is just a little much. But y’know I think they’re an insular enough gang… It’s like they’re doing the whole Twisted Sister music video thing where it’s, “I find your dissenting opinion on our band VERY interesting,” whilst secretly turning up the amp to 11 and blowing you (the naysayer) through a wall into wet cement like a particularly hapless high school principal. It’s a critic-proof stance.
The performances tend to wear thin as the songs unfurl, but there is so much messy ambition in the skewed arrangements that I can’t possibly stop listening. The Coathangers are bored of traditional verse/chorus/verse/same-as-the-first structures, and there’s more than enough fealty to new wave, and no wave, to keep things way more interesting than your typical garage rock clatter. The taut, sweating-bullets tension of “Time Passing,” the reflective jangly gambol of “Dreamboat,” the scuzzy swagger of tribute “Killdozer,” the shredded-throat and hardcore theatrics (that suddenly sounds like the Final Jeopardy music for a few seconds) of “Arthritis Sux,” are all really promising heralds of things to come.
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