The Coathangers

Suck My Shirt

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By their own admission, the Coathangers got their start when they literally couldn't play their instruments, so for bands like them, who start out sounding inept but great, the challenge that comes with time is, how do you get better without losing what made you memorable? The Coathangers' fourth full-length album, 2014's Suck My Shirt, still sounds as gloriously primitive as ever, but it's clear that seven years into their career, their approach to songcraft has matured and tightened up quite a bit, and the departure of keyboard player Candice Jones has turned this group into a leaner and meaner three piece. With a title like Suck My Shirt, it's clear that no one in the band is asking us to start taking them seriously, but there sure is less goofiness here and a keener sense of purpose. Gal-centric pop both vintage and current was one of the biggest influences on their early recordings, but much of this album recalls the tough but wiry sound of '80s funk punks like Gang of Four and the Au Pairs, especially on "Dead Battery" and "Shut Up," where bassist Meredith Franco and drummer Stephanie Luke lay down taut, elemental grooves and guitarist Julia Kugel slashes expressively over the top. Even when they get silly on "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" or dive into straight-ahead punk on "Smother," this is a stronger and more sophisticated band than before, though thankfully, they have held onto their sense of humor and their willingness to keep things simple and hit their instruments hard. Judging from Suck My Shirt, we're not going to get another "Nestle in my Boobies" or "Tonya Harding" from the Coathangers anytime soon, but they're as committed as ever to rocking and having a good time, and that's something that thankfully seems to be getting even stronger the more they figure out what they're doing.

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