More weekend than nosebleed, the Coathangers deliver a mix of sluggishly performed garage rock and passable punk attitude.
Nosebleed Weekend is the second Coathangers record without keyboardist Candice Jones, the follow-up to 2014’s Suck My Shirt, and if there’s one takeaway it’s that their sound has grown leaps and bounds in confidence. Without keyboards to fall back on their playing has gotten more adventurous and more sure-footed. The Coathangers have been going for ten years now, but the trend of female-fronted garage rock being incorporated into the mainstream lends itself best to their current output. Nosebleed Weekend is an album that feels of its time, in a way most of their previous releases have missed the mark on.
The Coathangers do their best work at their lowest, their most dirty. Lead single “Make It Right” is satisfyingly grungy garage punk that is a natural face for the record as a whole. Other notable moments include “Watch Your Back”, which sounds like Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables eating Surfin’ Safari alive, and features a really energetic breakdown partway through. “Down Down” is the unexpectedly catchy tune nobody was expecting but everybody was hoping for: it stitches together a lot of different moods but the chorus goes right for the kill and sells the whole song. “Dumb Baby” is a hooky track that sounds like a lo-fi interpretation of some of the early Arctic Monkeys musical tropes. Throw in the fun, serviceable guitar solo and you’ve got a reason to keep the record playing.
A lot of this record seems like it owes a debt to April March, to be honest, and anyone who’s heard “Chick Habit” knows that sound is a matter of taste. The Coathangers bring some good punk sensibility to the table but the majority of these tracks lack the velocity that would bring them into moshable territory. “Burn Me” is bland but acceptable, and “Nosebleed Weekend” could be great if it got punched up a little; if it committed to the attitude of its driving chorus.
There are moments when this lethargy really works: “Excuse Me?” is meditative, it works around a moody, distinctive bass line and shifts into something harder and more vicious at the chorus. It’s a dynamic track, made possible by the torpid mood of the verses. “I Don’t Think So” is an example of this technique used to less success: it’s buried deep enough in the record that it kills the momentum of the more upbeat tracks and fails to land.
The worst track on Nosebleed Weekend is also probably its most daring: “Squeeki Tiki” employs what sounds like a dog’s chew-toy for the titular squeaking effect. It’s practically unlistenable, gimmicky to the extreme, but, you know, props for trying. “Copycat” is also a moment of experimentalism, although it’s hard to tell if the way the instruments all sound just off-beat with each other is intended to unsettle the listener’s ear or is just a side effect of sloppy playing. A brave move, maybe, but it doesn't make a great song.
Here’s the bottom line: this is the sort of record you should give to your little sister. That sounds condescending, maybe, but think about it: The Coathangers are a band that started as a joke between friends in Atlanta -- the fact that they’ve maintained some longevity is more or less a fluke. They’re a great, fun, funny introduction to female-fronted garage punk. If you want to get your kid sister listening to punk, here’s your training wheels. Listen to “Perfume” -- there’s your gateway. You can give her the Muffs later.