The Coathangers – Larceny and Old Lace album review

In the last 40 years there’s been a consistently angsty market for the reckless, screeching noise-rock scene that has given birth to (or arguably come as a result of) such notable bands as Sonic Youth.  Five years ago in Atlanta, The Coathangers – an all-girl quartet formed by way of pawnshop instruments – came crashing on the scene and since their debut they have transformed into a wild and surprising group of rock stars capable of ripping your head off without thinking twice.

Initially, their releases were exactly what you’d expect; a hodgepodge of simplistic songs that were more scratched, screamed and banged-out than performed, but on Larceny and Old Lace, their third and most recent record, there has been an unmistakable shift toward refinement. It seems as though the girls have – after two full-length albums among a slew of 7” singles and several years of both headlining and supporting shows – actually learned how to play, write and perform as a band.

This time, the songwriting is considerably less homogonous, the instrumentation, though simplistic shows appreciable improvement, and though certainly not a record that stands out for its outstanding musicianship or lyricism, Larceny and Old Lace is a definite upgrade for this group.

The record opens with “Hurricane,” a grungy thrasher that sets the stage for an impressively menacing collection of songs.  Immediately following is “Trailer Park Boneyard,” a bi-polar throwback to 60’s ambient rock with a musical answer to the line, “go on and set me free” that will shock you into comatose submission.  Tracks like “Call to Nothing” and “My Baby” are eerie stalker anthems that could comfortably provide the soundtrack to any bad dream while “Jaybird” sounds like a Tim Burton film viewed in fast-forward.

If this record is any indication of where this band is going, I’m inordinately excited to see what their future will hold.  This is a classic example of a band best suited for live performance, but they seem to be getting better at capture some of that intensity on their records.  Future releases aside, Larceny and Old Lace is undoubtedly their best yet.

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