The Coathangers Nosebleed Weekend

[Suicide Squeeze; 2016]

Styles: the punk project, volcano girls, “I wanna be your Kim Gordon”
Others: Ex Hex, The Tammys, Against Me!

When Yankees reliever Andrew Miller threw a 2-2 slider, it was supposed to hit the catcher’s glove. Then the ball hit a bat and shot back toward Andrew Miller’s pisiform bone, which shattered.

It’s a minor bone, if a body has space for minor anatomy. To a lefty pitcher, it’s inessential to throwing a baseball. But it’s still a broken bone, the body fractured.

When they asked Andrew Miller what he’d do if the hand doctor said he couldn’t pitch with a broken right hand, he said “I’d probably find another doctor.”

Willians Astudillo’s life is minor, an existence that shuffles between minor league A-ball affiliates and winter leagues in Venezuela. He’s younger than me, but most scouts might say that the world he’s in is the world he’ll stay in. He was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training by the Atlanta Braves, which is where he broke Andrew Miller’s pisiform.

Two weeks after Willians Astudillo and Andrew Miller and the slider, The Coathangers played a show at the Star Bar in Atlanta, a scrubby club about four and half miles from Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves will play their 2016 season without Willians Astudillo. The Coathangers have just dropped Nosebleed Weekend . The Coathangers are punk. Willians Astudillo is punk. Andrew Miller is punk.

“One of the most difficult tasks that writing on punk demands is that of formulating a working definition from which to strike out. To begin, I will advance four propositions.”
– Stacy Thompson, Punk Productions: Unfinished Business

I. “There are several genres of punk textuality.”

Alex Cox took some shots, put on his Alan Lomax wig, and shouted into a recorder. The tracklist is Nosebleed Weekend. There’s a review to be written here: the Wilson sisters’ pop of “Perfume,” the blah-blah garage-sock of “Dumb Baby,” the dog toy apocalypse on “Squeeki Tiki,” and the soft-LOUD-soft of “Excuse Me.” But when was the last time typing soft-LOUD-soft got any work done aside from nausea-VIA-stupid capital letters?

Here’s Stacy Thompson on a Greil Marcus review of a Sleater-Kinney show: “Marcus describes punk and its effects using aesthetic and often idealistic categories: punk is a transhistorical and transcendent force that destabilizes everything in ‘the world at large’.” But Sleater-Kinney didn’t fix the world. They just shouted at it. Waxing about punk aesthetic is hopeless, because it exalts the solutional in a problem-causing agent. Nosebleed Weekend is a celebration of thumbed noses. The Coathangers write anti-hooks out of dog toys, wrap melody around the guttural and the bratty. But middle fingers alone aren’t punk. You need a pisiform. And you need a break.

II. “The building block of the field of punk is the ‘scene’.”

There’s a good chapter of David Byrne prose about the “scene.” There’s a Shamir song, too. The former outlines rough criteria for growing a germanium that encourages makers and creators (“social transparency must be encouraged… and maybe musicians get free beer, too.”) The latter sports lines like “life’s no answers, just one big guess/ so why not go out and make a scene?” Both instances of “scene” exert work here. Punk needs unity in its noise: “Hiya” is The Coathangers shaking up a Ramones bop until it works for the girls but the project doesn’t impact if the band isn’t together on the handclaps. There’s another review lurking: Nosebleed Weekend uses unity to oppose, coalescing political minority (feminine, queer, anarchist) into the weaponized and communal scene. Those grand sweeps tip into aesthetic celebration, typing politics-PUNK-politics and walking away. An institution confronting an institution is always a political problem: people are the political problem. What are we talking about when we talk about politics? What does a punk or a Coathanger stand to oppose?

III. “Punks have always mounted economic and aesthetic forms of resistance to capitalism and the commodity as its most ubiquitous form.”

When he was 21, Andrew Miller threw three games at the AAA level. He ended 2006 with the Detroit Tigers. He spent a few stints in the high minors but never played another full season below the Major League level. Starting last April, Andrew Miller will be paid $36 million dollars over four years.

Willians Astudillo, 24, has never appeared in a Major League game. He spent four years in the Venezuelan Summer Leagues, earning “no lower than $300 per month.” In 2014, he broke into A ball, where he earned approximately $850 monthly for six months, where I probably saw him in at First Energy park in Lakewood, NJ, where the best vegetarian option is a draft beer.

Stephanie Luke sings and drums in The Coathangers, an institution that just turned 10. In April, Heat Wave, a London zine, asked her about making a living. Stephanie Luke said: “Living from music is still alive and still just as difficult. Most of the money bands make from touring and record sales goes straight back into keeping the band going, so we all still have part time gigs when at home.”

IV. “The corporate music industry stands in for the whole of capitalism, for it is when they confront the major labels’ business practices, music, and bands that punks best understand themselves as opposed to capitalism.”

If you replace a few words in Stacy Thompson’s fourth punk proposition, Willians Astudillo’s career is punk rock. He isn’t paid well, and he might not ever be paid well. His choice to hit and catch baseballs runs opposite to the economic institutions that would advise him to get a job or worse, darker, and more sinister still, accept that by his ethnic and political station, he isn’t welcome to more. He breaks with those institutions. He is making, and he is making a living.

The Coathangers make a living playing music. And the credentials check out. Suicide Squeeze is sizably small, suitably Seattle. The venues they’ll hit on their tour are intimate and boozy. And maybe that breadth of craft on Nosebleed Weekend and their precise production suggests The Coathangers could reason with pop, consult with the industry, and not have to work part-time jobs.

Nosebleed Weekend is, of course, all open confrontation. “I’m not sure you realize that I just don’t give a shit” is the pre-chorus intonation of the title track, and the very next song is called “Watch Your Back” where the closest thing to a chorus is all three Coathangers shouting some hurricane cocktail of “Once you go back/ What’d you do/ One day/ What’d you say/ You can never go back/ Some day.” The record resists you making sense of it. It hits, laughs, ends. The thesis is “Squeeki Tiki.” “You can have it, I don’t want that shit/ It’s just a bad memory of what I did” is the kickoff, but they never say what it is. They laugh and shout and all you get is squeaking and squeaking and squeaking.

The problem with the poetry of punk aesthetics is that it suggests a pinpoint solution to a world’s mess of problems. The punk project is antithetical to the institutions, but it is not a solution to their problems. Diagnostics don’t cure. They characterize threats and will you to action. The punk project is the punk process. Stacy Thompson is punk: “What I find most helpful about the punk project is its underlying refusal to give up on imagining something other than the world as it is.” The Coathangers promise no resolution. Nosebleed Weekend is an artifact that codifies the problematic, the sexist, the boring, the inane, the xenophobic, and wills a next moment. Punk doesn’t fix. The bone is still broken. You have not made it. You might not make it. But punk pitches through the pain.

Links: Suicide Squeeze

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