by Jordan J. Michael (@jordwhyjames)
The Coathangers once told us to “Go Away” (2011) in the most polite way possible. Later on, the three sisters from another mother told us to “Shut Up” (2014) in a slightly less polite way. The Coathangers are a 13-year punk institution, contender for the most jubilant punk rock three-piece of all time. Stephanie Luke, Julia Kugel, and Meredith Franco can trade instruments throughout a set; their combined strength is truthful power. And their first impression on a fan (might be me) includes grabbing an onlookers’ leg (might be me) while performing “Arthritis Sux,” a fantastic song.
The Devil You Know proves that a good thing can last a long time, and also serves as evidence to a band that realizes the importance of its roots. Not too shabby for The Coathangers, who never planned to be this eternal. The bands’ birth was a planned one-off for their Atlanta buddies.
The Coathangers have enough popularity to sell out venues, as well as enough humility to wear matching, gold hooded dresses while laughing and screaming through a 25-song set. The crowd absolutely loves these ladies, cheering very loudly in unison when they take the stage; singing along to infectious numbers like “Nosebleed Weekend,” “Springfield Cannonball,” and new Devil You Know hit “F the NRA.” Coathangers are bad ass, and everyone knows it.
At the recent Chicago show, an older gentlemen from Indiana told Post-Trash that The Coathangers changed his daughters entire perception of music a few years ago. With a tiny video camera in hand, he was excited to see the band play, and Coathangers ripped in due fashion. Not many punk bands play for 80 minutes, and probably less give an encore. Coming back out for “Adderall,” it was the most tight and groovy The Coathangers had played all night. Longevity.
The Devil You Know is Coathangers coming full circle. The Coathangers is made of real people who have real personalities, and abuse their instruments at a level of passion that must be seen to be believed. Over time, The Coathangers’ production value has increased, but stays muddy in the right places. Luke said that she now dislikes sophomore album Scramble, but that document is a great piece of art. Scramble vibes live on in Devil You Know track “Stasher,” with its “you get what you get” harmony. The Coathangers have always sang marvelous harmonies. It shows up on “Hey Buddy” (“it’s just the devil you know, it’s so simple”), and aforementioned firearm takedown “F the NRA,” where each Coathangers’ member yells “fuck the NRA.” Perfect.
There might be bands that play similar punk rock to The Coathangers, but the band is unique, toxic, and sinister fun unlike any other. It just keeps going, one two-minutes-and-some-change song after another. The world doesn’t care about your plans (“Bimbo”), but The Coathangers care about sharing their music with you. Maybe the band is a little exhausted after 13 years of touring and making neat packages, but it is not like we could tell. It’s in the clang of cymbals, 1970s lurch of “Crimson Telephone,” and the whirlwind of “Step Back,” or the saxophone-guitar breakdown of “Memories,” and the funk reverie of “Last Call.”
Just when you think you have figured The Coathangers out (you never will), The Devil You Know concludes with the twinkling, dreamy americana in “Lithium,” which is about loving the thrill of pills. Surprisingly, Kugel’s moving vocals from this song started The Empty Bottle gig. The Coathangers started from the very bottom, but rose way the hell up high.