Coffin Lids: Rock 'N' Roll

Hunter Felt

Coffin Lids

Rock 'N' Roll

Label: Bomp!
US Release Date: 2004-03-16
UK Release Date: 2004-04-05

One of the main purposes of album-reviewing is to pinpoint who exactly would want to buy a particular album -- if anyone -- and why they should, or shouldn't. The cover art for Coffin Lids's debut album does at least half of my job for me. It is a close-up of a heavily tattooed forearm strumming a guitar illustrated with a decal version of the famous Night of the Living Dead poster. Next to the decal is the album's title, Rock 'N' Roll. Yes. Just Rock 'N' Roll .

Your reaction to this cover will determine whether Coffin Lids are for you. If your response is a sarcastic "rock songs about zombies, yeah that's original", you probably don't need this album in your collection, but wouldn't mind it as background music for a party. If you thought that Night of the Living Dead was too boring, and vastly prefer the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead (because the zombies are faster) you will probably prefer a slickly produced neo-garage album from the likes of Jet or the Vines. Best of all, the cover should rightly repel all those who think that zombie movies are too scary, too stupid, or too blasphemous to be good entertainment.

Now that those consumers have been weeded out, I can address the band's true audience: those who, when looking at the cover, would respond with an immediate and sincere, "Hell yeah!" Now, you probably already can make a few correct assumptions about Coffin Lids. For example, they play fast and short garage rock songs, adding just a hint of hardcore punk rock and a smidgen of gothy vocals to the mixture. Also, much like the A-Bones or the Mummies, Coffin Lids are fans of low production values, almost indecipherable lyrics about horror movies and cheap thrills, and guitar solos every bit as stupid, incompetent and genius as the one in "Louie Louie". As to be expected, Coffin Lids are not maudlin, even when they sing about death ("One Foot in the Grave"), and they are not romantic even when they sing about love ("None Come Close", "Be My Girl"). This is rock and roll in the old school sixties sense: it is not about art, or making a difference, or, worse of all, expressing oneself. It is about having an excuse to have a good time while acting like twelve-year-olds again.

Probably the Coffin Lids anthem is "Beer & Rock 'N' Roll", particularly the moment when lead singer Coffin Mike announces that he doesn't like "expensive wine, because it tastes like shit" and then explains that "beer and rock 'n' roll is all [he] wants". This statement seems applicable to their music, as well as their nightlife. Coffin Lids aren't trying to provide a complex and subtle experience, the "expensive wine" route of bands like Radiohead or Godspeed You! Black Emperor; they aim to be the Pabst Blue Ribbon of rock and roll: cheap, unpretentious and totally effective.

On second thought, "Beer & Rock 'N' Roll" is too wordy to be their anthem. Their true anthem is the opening "Coffin Lids Rock 'N' Roll", which does away with any sort of lyric that could be analyzed at all. The song is just a riff and the phrase "Coffin Lids Rock 'N' Roll". Why is this an acceptable anthem? Well, because it sums up what Coffin Lids' Rock 'N' Roll is about, namely, Coffin Lids playing rock 'n' roll.

Coffin Lids' number one weapon in their quest to play rock and roll music is their reliance on cheap production values. Most bands' attempts at a lo-fi sound come from either necessity or a misguided desire for authenticity. The handheld cassette recorder quality sound on Rock 'N' Roll is more of a genuine aesthetic choice. The muddy recording quality provides a feeling of pure intimacy that helps reinforce the album's house party atmosphere. The guitars and bass merge together into one monolithic sound, while the drums are either way too high or way too low in the mix. Close your eyes and it sounds like the band is playing very loudly in the apartment next door. Just how it is in the grade Z horror flicks that inspired the band, the cheapness of the entire project adds to its appeal.

It takes a certain type of intelligence to sound this dumb, and the album does contain hints that the band is smarter than its persona, although these hints are thankfully few. The Stooges-quoting "Eye on You" features a rumbling, fuzzy guitar riff stolen from the Sonics' playbook with deft aplomb, while the cover of "Pipeline" proves that, if the fancy struck them, they could have been one of the world's greatest bar bands. These little twists emerge from the lo-fi dumpster of sound just long enough to add enough personality to the proceedings to make this a worthwhile purchase for those of the "hell yeah" persuasion, even if they already own the entire Mummies discography.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.