Much like a forgotten bowl of cereal or a patch of land when it rains, many music genres get over-saturated to the point of producing stereotypical, soggy muck in due time. Such is the case with most of the emerging garage rock these days, which not only comes across as boring, but just plain bad.
The Coathangers are no exception to this trend, essentially releasing 12 unoriginal copies of the same monotonous song on their fourth LP, Suck my Shirt.
The trio, reduced to three members after their keyboardist Candice Jones (aka Bebe Coathanger) left the group, holds to its roots as it continues on the path of mediocrity, trying and failing to revive the ’90s rather than creating its own sound.
The remaining ladies, guitarist/vocalist Julia Kugel (Crook Kid Coathanger), drummer/vocalist Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger), and bassist/vocalist Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger), carry on with the same definitive chick garage rock sound that they’re known for, but lose a lot of the experimental aspects that made them a somewhat interesting in the past.
The lack of originality is shown in almost every song. From the unbelievably repetitive “Shut Up” to the atrocious “Springfield Cannonball,” the tiring “Merry Go Round” to the predictable “Smother,” a majority of the songs lack any depth or ingenuity whatsoever.
The Coathangers have taken 10 steps back by dissolving intriguing riffs down to a heap of power chords and stock drum lines.
The band has never been one for lyrical depth, and still isn’t, so riding on colorful instrumentals was a necessity. Without that, there’s a huge hole that can’t be replaced by whiney vocals or fleeting creativity.
Suck My Shirt isn’t entirely shoddy, though. The short-lived flashes of appeal are infrequent and largely fueled by Luke’s gritty vocals, but often last too long until they become dull, as well. Most of the songs seem to drag on thanks to the group’s primitive instrumentals and shortage of variation.
Take the power-packed single “Follow Me,” which features Luke’s bold vocals and some of the catchiest instrumentals on the record. The song loses its luster before the bridge comes in to save it, then loses it even more once that’s over. This style of punk-rock is hard to handle in anything more than short bursts, so hearing a four-minute patch of it that barely changes proves taxing.
By far the best song on Suck My Shirt is “Love Em and Leave Em,” another Luke-driven hit. It’s obvious from the introductory guitar riff, fresh with grungy fuzz guitar and harmonics, that The Coathangers have found their niche.
This is where the three-piece should exist: between steady blues verses and controlled insanity. No fucking around with the same tired chord progressions or vocal restraint, but rather capitalizing on the talent they do have by following this example. The song has an edge lost in the rest of the album, though clearly The Coathangers are striving for it throughout. It’s direct and deliberate, flowing flawlessly between each clashing verse and chorus. Kugel also shows off her hidden talent in a classic punk guitar solo that is unmatched by any other on the album.
“Love Em and Leave Em” proves that the potential is there, but the focus is off on most of the release.
The Coathangers have restrained themselves on the majority of Suck My Shirt. By trying to be a weirdo recreation of the ’90s riot grrrl scene, the group has trapped itself in a box that it needs to break out of.
The Coathangers should embrace the catchy, empowering spirit of the good songs on this album and become their own band rather than a poor copy of the past.
The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt tracklist:
- “Follow Me”
- “Shut Up”
- “Springfield Cannonball”
- “Merry Go Round”
- “Love Em and Leave Em”
- “Dead Battery”
- “Derek’s Song”
- “I Wait”