Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 in Review: The “Album That’s Amazing Despite Everything About It” Award

This award, in honor of success despite overwhelming sloppiness, goes to:

Rob’s House

On the surface, this is a really shitty album. The Coathangers aren’t notably skilled at playing their instruments, so the songs are simplistic and sort of sloppy. The vocals are usually shrill and sort of grating. The songs, featuring titles like “Haterade,” “Shut the Fuck Up,” and (of course) “Nestle In My Boobies” aren’t much in the way of sophistication. And it’s got too many soft spots for a straight up punk record. But there’s something about it that’s hard to explain that goes right into the heart of what these songs are that gives it magic.

For starters, these girls have a lot of fun together. “Wreckless Boy” sounds sort of like what would happen if the Dead Kennedys kicked Phil Spector out of the studio and started backing 60’s girl groups. Furthermore, they mean what they play. When you listen to that screaming on “Don’t Touch My Shit,” right after the “I’ll punch you in the twat” part, well, that’s not a sound someone makes because it’s fun or because it feels good. That’s a sound you only make because you have to.

Here’s where I have to break for a second and talk about “Nestle in my Boobies,” because it’s the gateway drug for this band. Everyone hears a song title like that and goes into it for the novelty value. But it starts out with this icy, flat keyboard line, and then the cymbals kick in, filling up as much of the treble as they can while this ultra blown-out bass line comes in and just rattles your skull. Despite the subject matter, there’s a real driving undertone to this song that’s got a real kick to it. I daresay it’s downright menacing. Several of the songs have that same feeling to them. These girls have a sort of femme fatale vibe: they’re beautiful and they know it, and they’re going to take you home and play with you, and if you piss them off they’ll cut your throat. While you wouldn't think to use the word "subtle" to describe a band like this, it does apply. There are hidden textures.

And then there are the surprises. When “Parking Lot” kicks in, you roll your eyes at the guitar line stolen from “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” But it’s got this charm to it when those chords start flowing so easily that they’re almost indistinguishable, and the band is all singing together that’s actually . . . sort of touching. That’s immediately followed by “Buckhead Betty,” which despite the snottiness is actually a very pretty song. Same goes for “Bloody Shirt.”

I love this record because I can’t pin it down. As blatant as everything seems, there are layers upon layers that make me feel like this can’t all be just slop. It makes me want to dance to it and it makes me feel it, even if it completely short-circuits my ability to think about it rationally. That’s what music is supposed to do, right?

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