Fright Makes Right

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It starts with a big orchestral fanfare that suddenly mutates into an echoed collapse and a blast of huge bass and screams -- this is not exactly Live at the Boston Pops, at the least. Coughs, a Chicago-based sextet, are a noise/no wave bunch that in their multiplicity of instruments and general size call to mind what an inversion to the all too polite hash on the Elephant 6 label would have been like -- there's even an otherwise completely atypical (if roughly recorded) banjo-led singalong on "Come Back to Me," but one wonders if this is a droll nod to Animal Collective as much as anyone else. Lead singer Anya Davidson often plays her voice as an instrument, sometimes a barely intelligible howl, at other points (as on the title track and to an extent on "Photo Safari") aiming at a speak-sing approach flatly set against the band's racket. The stentorian martial section of "Elephant" lets her deliver a lyric somewhere between Dio-like pronouncements and punked-out outrage -- a telling sign for the musicians as a whole, since as with a number of their fellow noise band travelers there seems to be a healthy obsession for taking classic rock stomp and using it in their own fashion. The blistering riff at the core of "Elimidate" and the steady roll and punch of the beats on "Garter Snake" and "Penal Colony" are two instances of the band paring things down rather than going all over the place. It's this use of focused structure given to all the chaotic sound that helps give Coughs' work shape and memorable impact, acting as a parallel to the excellent work of Deerhoof. (Despite what might be thought, "Give Peace a Chance" and "I'm Just a Bill" aren't covers -- but the idea of Load Records doing a Schoolhouse Rock tribute is amusing.)

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