While the concept of a gang of girls playing music together like it's 1992 is hardly a new phenomenon, there's something decidedly exciting about Atlanta four-piece The Coathangers that sets them apart from most of their peers in what is becoming a saturated marketplace.
Having formed in 2006 more as an excuse to hang out with the (so-called) cool people in their hometown, the four Coathangers - Julia Kugel (aka Crook Kid Coathanger), Meredith Franco (Minnie Coathanger), Stephanie Luke (Rusty Coathanger) and Candice Jones (BeBe Coathanger)- may not have been the most proficient at tuning their instruments, but such minor inadequacies never stopped people like Kathleen Hanna from becoming the figurehead of a scene.
If their embryonic years were seen as something of an Atlanta in-joke - and to be fair, both Larceny & Old Lace's predecessors have their moments of inspired greatness, particularly 2009's Scramble, which at least altered many perceptions of those who had the band down as little more than an elaborately shambolic pisstake.
So, onto Larceny & Old Lace and it seems The Coathangers' world has turned full circle. Although on the surface this may seem a well-thought out extension of the post-punk polemic of bands like The Slits and the Au Pairs via the first wave of Riot Girl, there's an underlying sadness throughout Larceny & Old Lace that is difficult to ignore.
Poignantly inspired by the passing of both friends and family alike, Larceny & Old Lace is a concept record in the most pedantic sense. With all four band members taking lead vocals at various intervals, there's a sense that each and every one of 'Larceny & Old Lace's 11 songs hold a personal memoir for its writer. 'Jaybird' for example might sound like Crystal Stilts covering the B-52s (or vice versa), but as heartfelt tributes go, its "Oh such a shame"_ refrain pretty much sums up the tragic circumstances surrounding its subject matter, the late Jay Reatard.
Elsewhere, 'Hurricane' takes The Runaways 'Cherry Bomb' and spits it out through The Slits' genre blender with forceful abandon. 'Trailer Park Boneyard' carves The Coathangers' name on the same hanging tree as Erase Errata or Mika Miko, its coarse rhythms and angular riffs perfectly complementing the four-way harmonies that cry "Why won't you set me free?" in unison.
Delve a little deeper and there's bubblegum odes to puppy love ('Go Away'), sombre bass heavy piledrivers ('Johnny'), blues-driven garage rock ('Well Alright') and even boisterous three-chord punkarama that wouldn't have sounded out of place years before any of the band were born ('Chicken: 30'). While the ground The Coathangers find themselves treading is well-worn, it's their approach and general unpretentious demeanour that makes them and Larceny & Old Lace a delightfully engaging collection, even if the underlying message bears a hallmark of sadness and loss.
8Dom Gourlay's Score