The Coathangers Scramble

[Suicide Squeeze; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: post-punk, no wave, riot grrrl
Others: Mika Miko, Finally Punk

On the horizon of subject matter, Scramble’s constituent tracks may seem dementedly scattershot, but Atlanta’s Coathangers, tested troublemakers of lechery and sass, obey their own logic of topicality. Once on a theme — up against it, goading it — they focus, laser-like, to explode its contradictions at whatever cost. Their annoying, totally gleeful bratgirl sexcapades entertain, the product of outsized chutzpah and the carnivalesque protest that sprouts when sincerity gets old.

On their first, self-titled LP, it was Parcheesi and, so, so memorably, Tonya Harding; now, the ’Hangers discourse on weightlifting and joint disease, each gleefully bludgeoned beneath the pots and pans, squeals, rattles, honks, and high-fructose keyboards that define their spunky vocabulary. It’s a record of caricatures and come-ons, all cloaked in thick description and a nose for the indignities that hound us average Amer’cans in spite of it all. “Stop Stomp Stompin’,” for instance, presents the case against a truculent upstairs neighbor in admirable if conventionally needless detail: “Why don’t you put on some slippers, Mr. Lead Foot?/ You need to put in some carpet; I really think you should.” It builds, pettier with each pace: “No matter how loud you play her, Cher won’t believe in you.”

“Arthritis Sux,” a peculiar foil to Finally Punk’s early screed “Red Neck Gout Club,” is worth quoting at length: “I can’t get up/ You fucking suck/ I had enough/ Fight, fight, fight/ Rheumatoid/ There’s a void/ In my bones/ Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Each time around, The Coathangers marshal all available evidence, and each whoa-wave tantrum prickles with the self-assured righteousness of a pre-teen. They get their way.

It’s exciting to hear these hyper-mundane quarrels grafted onto the spiky provocations bequeathed by Gang of Four on the one hand and, say, DNA on the other. Unlike Mika Miko, their tour sisters and obvious peers who sway between sweet and sour, punk and post-, they don’t ever capitulate to the compositional tropes proper to the early-Reagan basement. But Scramble reveals a versatile bunch all the same. It’s gimmicky on some level, and maybe formally confined, but the absurdity of these songs can’t mask their joy and evident catharsis. Get into it.

1. Intro
2. Toomerhead
3. Stop Stomp Stompin’
4. Time Passing
5. Bury Me
6. Dreamboat
7. Pussywillow
8. Gettin’ Mad and Pumpin’ Iron
9. Killdozer
10. 143
11. Arthritis Sux
12. Sonic You
13. Bobby Knows Best
14. Cheap Cheap
15. Outro

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