Imagine a frolicsome female foursome twisting the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” into a Marilyn Manson parody. It’s funny, rocking and a little chilling. Welcome to Larceny & Old Lace, the third album from Atlanta’s Coathangers. The song in question, “Hurricane,” is exhibit ‘A’ in the Coathangers aesthetic – an anything goes as long as they’re having a good time modus operandi that serves them well. Their sound is rooted in the brittle declarations of Riot Grrrl 1993 (think Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear … but L7 and Babes in Toyland, too) and the angular chord-free dance-punk of early Eighties No-Wave. But the Coathangers are anything but orthodox; if it falls into their processor, they’re about hitting the switch.
You can hear the dark echoes of girl group sounds on songs like “Go Away.” The vocal is sweet, but with undertones of Yoko Ono desperation. In this case the ladies are intent on having some guy stray (hell, cheat … just go away), all delivered to a Magnus chord organ sounding keyboard tease and the sass of Blondie’s “Just Go Away” (the songs’ near namesake). But it’s not as if the Coathangers aren’t longing for love. Sure they are. On “Trailer Park Boneyard,” to the accompaniment of a rattling guitar figure (Echo, Cure, post-punk vintage), they project their characteristic sweet to shriek vocal identity, hoping for love as transformation (‘cuz I’m always nowhere and I can’t be me’). Generally it’s guitarist Julia Kugel doing the girlier parts and drummer Stephanie Luke executing the Kat Bjelland wail. But ya gotta be careful - they trade vocals and instruments, and even vocal identities; theirs is the kind of collective art that emerged from friendship before musicianship. And their developing musicality hasn’t diminished their expressionist vibe.