On their sixth album The Coathangers are focusing their fury to a fine point, channeling their irritation with the world into targeted tension that’s more mulled than their early works. They’re no strangers to the scratch n’ slash punk pound but they’d been swinging more wild on their early records. While tracks like “Shut Up” are excellent reasons to shout down the shitstorm, on Devil You Know the band has zeroed in on what’s burrowed under their skin, whether its the NRA or unwanted advances. The album’s packed with pop hooks but those hooks’ll snag ya every time, and that’s what makes Coathangers great.
As they’ve acknowledged themselves, this record does congeal more than they’ve attempted to in the past. The band had been blessed and cursed with three songwriters and they’d typically split the album into the respective writers’ songs. Each was effective but the effect was often disjointed. Now, instead of sounding like power pop, punk and post-punk thrown in a jar and shaken to order, the tracks shift under your feet from tense rhythm chokers to candy choruses in the span of three-minute marvels. They even yank the plug and take the temperature down to a chill with the pillow-soft strains of “Lithium.”
And with that ‘90s-nodded title the band gives away what works best about The Devil You Know. Their tattered and taped vision of alt rock brings echoes that golden era for guitars without pulling it on like a punchline. Where Pixies, Veruca Salt, and Elastica bounced pop’s gloss and punk’s power back and forth, The Coathangers are true heirs apparent. The whip tension like pros, nail their targets to the wall and come off with the songs that peel paint while getting stuck solid in your head for days. The band has long proven that they can hang with the heavies in a genre of two, but it seems that by letting go of purity they found themselves at their best. If you’d ever written the band off, or pigeon holed them in any regard, its time for another listen.
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