REVIEW: The Coathangers “Suck My Shirt”/Brewdog Punk IPA

This week’s review is from a band after my own heart, an all-girl punk band from Atlanta called the Coathangers.

THE RECORD: The Coathangers Suck My Shirt Suicide Squeeze 2014

Back in my college days, I spent a lot of time in the studio at the radio station, as well as researching and writing my thesis about the role of women in the music industry. I was fascinated by the riot grrl movement of the 90s because I was a little too young to witness it while it was going on. I find The Coathangers to be reminiscent of Bikini Kill, but a bit more polished, from both a recording standpoint as well as their vocal harmonies and catchy songwriting.

Formerly a quartet, The Coathangers are now down a keyboard player and play as a trio. I’ve heard some of their previous material, but this new record is definitely not missing anything or overcompensating for one less instrument.

I love the basslines. They move effortlessly between having a surf rock vibe, like on “Shut Up”, or slow, sludgy rock on “Love Em And Leave Em”. The gravelly, husky lead vocals of Rusty Coathanger (real name Stephanie Luke) give these songs a rough, personal sensibility.

I don’t really hear a lot of bands that sound like this locally; maybe I am just looking in the wrong places. To be honest, I don’t know of that many all-female rock and roll bands in my area, which is a damn shame in my opinion. But regardless, the Coathangers rock. And if having a name that references a backdoor abortion technique isn’t enough to tell you that the band has a sense of humor, their latest video featuring Mastodon in drag should. The song, called “Follow Me” is the first track on the new record, and really kicks off the album in high gear. Check out the vidoe below.

THE BREW: Brewdog Punk IPA- Scotland

I am so glad to be seeing Brewdog offerings at more bars around me. It could be due to their show of the same name on the Esquire channel, but regardless, I’m happy to see their beers at bars and not have to pay a crazy amount for these imports.

It’s got one of my favorite malts, Maris Otter (I would name one of my kids Maris Otter, and I’m not kidding). It also has the funky New Zealand hop Nelson Sauvin, which I don’t see that often, but definitely explains the tropical, grapefruity notes that are similar to that of a Sauvignon Blanc. The best part is for all these flavors, it’s still only 5.6% ABV. It’s totally drinkable, with some traits similar to a citrus-forward west coast IPA, but a taste all it’s own. I love the color- it’s almost a peach-orange. Definitely not a beer to sit on, and best consumed when it’s super fresh (not always possible for an import). I haven’t had it on draft but I hope to see it around on tap soon!

THE PAIRING: It was bound to happen for me to pair a punk rock record with the Punk IPA, one of my favorite beers. It goes down easy, but there’s still substance and flavor to it. and it’s a well-made IPA. Kind of like the Coathangers- they definitely know how to party hard, but their latest record is much more than a punk rock basement recording. Similar to the way I want to see more of Brewdog’s beers in bars, I definitely want to see more female rock bands around the local rock scene!

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REVIEW: Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues/Narragansett Autocrat Stout

THE RECORD: Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues- Total Treble 2014

Against Me! is a blast to listen to and see live. They’ve been in the news over the past year or so since lead singer Tom Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, came out as transgender. The reactions I’ve seen have been really supportive which is awesome to see. I’m supportive too. However, I feel like I have read a lot of critical reviews from people that are expecting the sound of the record to be different. While the record’s called Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I’m not listening to it thinking “this is a transgender-fronted punk rock record”. I’m listening to it thinking, “this is a fucking punk rock record”. and the fact that Grace has come out with such brave honesty, she now has nothing to hide, which only makes her musical performances greater. So many of Grace’s song lyrics are so personal, but they are conveyed in a way that a lot of the audience can relate to and understand the struggle.

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It’s fist-in-the-air music, it’s getting anger off your chest music. I’m sure Laura Jane Grace has a lot to get off her chest, and it’s so great that she’s sharing it through her songwriting. I have read stories that she wanted to write a concept album about a transgender prostitute, and while I don’t know how accurate those stories are, I definitely think this is a concept record of sorts. For me, the songs all capture a certain aspect of being on the outside, or being separated from something, whether it’s a current relationship, in society in general, or being apart from an old friend. While Grace obviously wrote these songs about specific subjects, she writes in a way that everyone can take something personal from them.

“Unconditional Love” is one of my favorite tracks. “Even if your love was unconditional/it still wouldn’t be enough to save me” is a dark-sounding line but the way it’s shouted and repeated makes it a mantra that might give someone strength. What I take from that lyric is that you can’t rely on other people to save you- you have to save yourself.

“Osama Bin Lada As The Crucified Christ” really stands out to me, because it has a riff that breaks in and sounds pretty metal and intense. Sequence-wise, it’s the middle track on the record and I think it fits really well here, before the more clean-sounding “Fuckmylife666”. I don’t have it on vinyl yet so I don’t know what’s on side A and side B yet. But that’s what I would think.

Here’s a note. I started writing this review when I had only listened to the record once or twice. Now I can’t stop listening to it. Cheers to you, Laura Jane Grace, true trans soul rebel.

THE BEER: Autocrat Stout- Narragansett Brewing, Providence, RI

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Narragansett beer isn’t just a $3 can of beer at a concert. I mean, it is, but they actually have a few delicious brews up their sleeve. The Autocrat is like a dark cup of coffee with freshly roasted beans and a splash of cream in it. I did a little research on this one, and found out that Autocrat actually makes a coffee syrup, like chocolate or other flavored syrup. Apparently the official state drink of Rhode Island is “coffee milk”, according to Wikipedia and the Internet at least. This beer tastes exactly like that, creamy but bittersweet. It pours out of the can a deep espresso brown with a fluffy, cream colored head. Milk stout is one of my favorite beer styles, so I am a bit biased. A great thing about this beer is it’s only a little over 5% ABV, so it’s practically sessionable, which is something that isn’t always seen in stouts. Did I mention it’s in a can? Love it.

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THE PAIRING: I’m pairing it with Narragansett’s new stout because much like this record has the simplicity of a punk record, such as Narragansett beer is a simple beer in a 16 oz can. But there’s more to it, and there is something to be respected on both the record and the beer. Transgender Dysphoria Blues has a lot going on with it, and it is a record that isnt simply cut and dry. Like how Narragansett is known, at least where I live, for being a cheap can of beer, they can also make something dark and delicious with a lot of flavor to it.