The Coathangers bring punk diversity to Parasite EP

ParasiteWhat does punk rock mean in 2017? It's not that straightforward a question. We've already seen a multitude of interpretations, from the more musically experimental (post-punk) to the more accessible (pop punk) to the more overtly political (anarcho-punk). Purists may scorn some of these offshoots, but that's rather silly. The only reason punk is still relevant today is its ability to constantly reinvent and reimagine itself. Without that process, all you'd have is bands playing a pale memory of punk.

Besides, let's not run the risk of being overly romantic about the early days. The Sex Pistols were, after all, set up to help sell clothes, which makes all the complaints about the commercialism of pop punk a bit ridiculous. Sid Vicious apologists will still talk about him supposedly walking through the streets of Paris' Jewish quarter in a swastika shirt as if it was something cool. As opposed to the reality, which is that it would be the actions of a complete fucking wanker.

So really the question is not about some kind of quixotic quest for punk 'authenticity', but what punk means to the artists who play it and what they have to offer. Which brings us nicely to punk stalwarts The Coathangers and their new EP Parasite.

Musically, The Coathangers take a rather classic interpretation of punk. Play garage rock. And play it louder and dirtier. It's a technique that has stuck around for a reason. Done well, it works. It provides an exhilarating visceral experience and gets the adrenalin pumping. And as you'd expect from a band with over a decade under their belts, The Coathangers certainly know how to do it well.

Where they break from some of their peers is their unapologetic embrace of their pop side. Make no bones about it: this is pop. Energetic, in your face pop. But pop nonetheless. This makes Parasite a more appealing prospect. There's none of the barriers to entry you get with many noise rock artists. For an EP that can be pretty aggressive, there's still something welcoming here. Parasite welcomes the listener to be part of The Coathangers' 'us against the world' spirit, rather than pushing the listener away. This is especially noticeable on the EP's standout track, "Captain's Dead". The garage rock provides the anger. But the pop is what makes the track quite so much fun.

There's something of The Ramones about Parasite, but without that band's deliberate dumbness. As Parasite's title track illustrates nicely, The Coathangers are skilled at blending the personal with the political. It's frequently difficult to tell whether they're singing about someone who's done them wrong on a personal level or whether there's a more national perspective, and it's these multiple interpretations that allow the songs to work on multiple levels.

Those levels are something the band recognise. As guitarist/vocalist Julie Kugel explains of "Captain's Dead": "Easy come, easy go; what you reap is what you sow. Sometimes people that you trust fail you miserably by falling victim to their own ego. They start believing their own hype, fancy themselves a leader, but they lead nothing. It's based on a personal experience, but this track has taken on a larger meaning given our current political weather. It's feeling stormy - the ships made out of shit will sink themselves."

What is punk in 2017? Many things. But one of the things modern punk unquestionably has to offer is The Coathangers.

Release: 30th June 2017, Suicide Squeeze Records

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