Monday 4 April 2011

The Thermals and The Coathangers at XOYO- 1 April 2011

The Coathangers pic by Jason Reed

Despite it being early, I find myself haring down the stairs of XOYO to discover that The Coathangers have already started. A rare example of an act hitting the stage before they are actually due to do so.

This band are the principal reason that I’m here and I’m narked at missing even a millisecond. Howwever, there is still plenty left to enjoy.

And if you don’t enjoy The Coathangers, then a vital element of popular music has passed you by.

They are a textbook example of the kind of act that polarises audiences. They are rock and roll reduced to its most basic form of shrieking and banging. The “they don’t know how to play their instruments” brigade had better look away now, because these gals are all about fun and anarchy and attitood (definitely the right spelling for this).

Like with many all girl groups, instruments and vocal chores are shared with abandon. Songs are so loosely constructed that sometimes it is hard to tell if they have started or finished. This is not at all amateurish, it’s simply a celebration of the joy of making music and being on stage.

A snapshot: One Coathanger smashes at a keyboard and ooOOoos a Theremin, all the time screaming through a mane of hair. She leans across the ass of guitarist Coathanger, whose face is a screwed up snarl of spitting vocal, her guitar being thrashed at as if it is an attacking animal that is hanging from her neck. Diminutive bassist Coathanger bounces like a ball, sometimes singing, sometimes flinging herself at the guitarist with kicks and fists. Drummer Coathanger is the most striking of the lot. Tall, an asymmetric haircut and two full sleeves of tattoos, she sings and screams hoarsely and is the most dominant of all. Literally so when she is on guitar duties later on, towering over the bassist and yelling “I’m bigger than you, I’m bigger than you.”

This set is a sheer joy. It’s like a five year old in a sandpit bashing a tin bucket with a spade – primal fun of the type that virtually all other bands shy away from.

Your Coathangers tonight have been Julia, Stephanie, Candice and Meredith and this is the best performance of the year so far.

The headliners are Portland band The Thermals, about whom I sadly know very little. This ignorance puts me very much in the minority, because as soon as this three piece get started the venue erupts into one giant moshpit.

To me they sound like America’s answer to Buzzcocks, playing as they do a stripped down basic pop punk that is much heavier on melody than other more hardcore-leaning bands.

I find them ever so slightly anaemic and overly hectoring, but there is no doubt that they are going down a perfect storm.

One of my mates compares them to Bruce Springsteen. He means to be disparaging, but I don’t think that that is true in The Thermals case. This may be rabble rousing, but there is also an undeniable sense of community and shared excitement.

Judging by the excitement in the crowd, this is pretty much greatest hits all the way and I feel excluded – which is a pity and of course entirely my own fault.

I enjoy The Thermals, but can only do so up to a certain point. In my mind they remain a pint that can never become a quart.

However, this is minor carping. It’s been a great evening, especially for the young, loud and snotty punk of The Coathangers. They rool. And that’s also the correct spelling.

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