Packed With A Punch: The Coathangers Return With 'Nosebleed Weekend'
There are a few things that need to be taken into consideration when listening to The Coathangers’s latest album, 'Nosebleed Weekend'.
The punk trio’s fifth album, released ten years since they started off, it’s also the first to be recorded outside of their native Atlanta. The 13-track record was, instead, recorded in California at the recently renovated Valentine Recording Studios, where the likes of Frank Zappa, Bing Cosby and The Beach Boys once frequented. So why is this useful background knowledge in light of Nosebleed Weekend?
From the outset, it is clear that the latest record from Julia Kugel (guitar/vocals), Meredith Franco (bass/vocals) and Stephanie Luke (drums/vocals) is quite the departure from their previous albums. Compared with their 2007 self-titled debut, Nosebleed Weekend is a far cry from its eclecticism and outlandish unpredictability. Yet, given that The Coathangers have been doing their thing for ten years now, it’s little surprise that they’ve moved on somewhat – choosing pristine production over grizzly fuzz.
Whilst the influence of recording on the West Coast is apparent in 'Nosebleed Weekend', it should be noted that inklings of a shift in sound are noticeable on their last record, 2014’s 'Suck My Shirt'. Thus, all in all, 'Nosebleed Weekend' plays like a natural progression – and one to be welcomed at that.
Thankfully, their latest album remains fundamentally in the realm of being uniquely Coathangers-esque – making for an all-round delightful listen. ‘Delightful’ isn’t necessarily a word that one would expect to associate with the band who once sang "Shut The Fuck Up" but, alas, ten years is a long time – even if it doesn’t feel that way.
It is because The Coathangers have achieved to find a balance between the bite that epitomises their earlier oeuvre with a more refined charm that makes 'Nosebleed Weekend' what it is.
Album opener "Perfume" introduces the more melodic side of The Coathangers, combined well with surf-rock undertones. It’s a sweet track, but it gets lost behind "Dumb Baby", with its' fast-paced earthiness. "Squeeki Tiki" is fittingly strange in accordance with the trio’s roots, with a real squeaky pet toy making up the main hook. It’s odd, certainly, but its an admirable touch that goes to show that the trio have far from lost their touch.
"Excuse Me?" has a dark edge to it – it’s almost unnerving to listen to. Disappointingly, however, it’s not a match to the squeaky toy strangeness of the previous track. Whilst it is a solid song, the fact that it comes on the back of "Squeeki Tiki" overshadows its potential, which is better grasped when listened to in isolation.
"Make It Right" and "Nosebleed Weekend" are both decent, but they do feel like a bit of a slump in an otherwise stellar album. But the pace picks up again with “Watch Your Back"; the disjointed vocals towards the end of the track that follow on from a spectacular solo from Kugel and then Luke more than make up for moments of dullness. Thankfully, "Burn Me" continues to ride the wave of excitement – before "I Don’t Think So" brings it back down a notch.
The amalgamation of tempos in "Down Down" makes it the strongest moment on the album, and epitomises the quality of The Coathangers’ style. It exemplifies just how well they have managed to hone that gritty punkness into something golden. Yet, whilst "Hiya" is poppy and prickly enough, "Had Enough" and "Copycat" seem to drag Nosebleed Weekend down somewhat.
There are some fiercely brilliant moments on Nosebleed Weekend, which unfortunately get lost in the album’s length. It must be noted, though, that even at it’s weaker moments, The Coathanger’s latest record is never mediocre. The band have definitely refined their sound for the better, but it remains to be at their most unpredictable that they are their most supreme. "Down Down" cannot encapsulate this enough.