The Coathangers – Larceny & Old Lace (Music Review)

Larceny & Old Lace cover

The Coathangers - Larceny & Old Lace

The Coathangers are an all-female punk group with the brusque intimacy of someone shouting at you from across a crowded room. Their simple song structure and deliveries occasionally give way to influences from classic pop and soul, and even a country-style ballad, proving that their style is more of a fundamental melting pot than a limitation. Larceny & Old Lace is their third album.

The drums and more electronic-sounding music almost appear to be pre-programmed, at odds with the full-throated shouting and chaotic guitar fuzz. This is a very unfortunate distraction. As it is, they are best in quick hooks and soudbytes, such as the suddenly-intense declaration “such a shame we say goodbye” or the bratty schoolyard chant of “well, Johnny’s going to hell for what he did”. Those highs are rarely maintained over the length of a whole song, though. (For example, “Johnny” loses me when the second verse turns out to be about a mass-murdering woman going to hell as well. It takes on a seriousness that doesn’t suit the irreverent start.)

More problematically, the songs rarely seem to be about anything memorable. I’m not asking for anything deep, but most songs are forgettable beyond a couple catchy lyrics. This needs more tracks like “Go Away”, a simple song about needing space from a not-quite-boyfriend. Humanity and a relatable situation come through, in spite of (or because of) the fact that it isn’t trying to be anything more than an everyday slice of life. Punk’s strength is in how easily a sloppy, basic song can seem to reflect the human condition, but its weakness is that if it misses that mark, it seems to be posed and unnatural.

It’s frustrating to review The Coathangers, because they frequently approach true genius. The hooks are raw and pure, and the modern indie craft they bring to a wild, unhinged genre provides real moments of frisson. But the songs are ultimately forgettable, without the ability to keep the listener coming back after the initial attraction. I could easily see myself hailing the band as essential with just some small tweaks to the format, but as it is, I’m disappointed.

Grade: C


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