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Coachwhips - Peanut Butter & Jelly - Live at the Ginger Minge

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Artist: Coachwhips

Album: Peanut Butter & Jelly - Live at the Ginger Minge

Label: Narnack

Review date: Feb. 3, 2005

Coachwhips play the same damn rock 'n' roll riffs kids have played for 50 years. It's got the exact same primal beats as any other back-to-the-basics band. The lyrics are little more than misanthropic slogans. They shoot through 10 songs in 20 minutes. There should be a long list of bands to compare them too. There isn't.

They throw on more noise than most, but that's just the surface of what makes them hit so hard. The lyrics, barely decipherable thorough the guitar scuzz, really sting. Simple hooks emerge and get blasted away. You want to dance, and you want to run for cover. Coachwhips are completely free of retro affectation. It's rare when a band can look to the past and the future with equal skill. Or contempt.

It spills over into the record's title. This isn't actually a live record. It was recorded live in the studio. There's no audience, and they probably wouldn't give a shit if there was. John Dwyer damages the mics and guitar tone to a point that those elements provide the skeleton of the songs, rather than the lead. It's what makes this music diverge from other bands working the same turf. By filtering his parts though a haze of flayed circuits, the band attacks at every level. It's hard to believe at first listen, but they've got nuance.

Dwyer's roots go back to Pink and Brown, a duo that came out of the same Rhode Island scene that produced longer running noise acts like Lightning Bolt and Forcefield. While Pink and Brown were recognizably rock in their brutal riffage, they certainly weren't rock 'n' roll. Metal and punk licks were given a serious beat-down, and their approach to noise was a show of bravado and bemusement. However, frequent tempo and time changes betrayed Pink and Brown as brainiacs. Coachwhips aim for the crotch.

The songs here fall into two topics – having sex and hurting people. The best tracks have a straightforward core that pounds through the distortion-fried foreground. Odd elements fight their way out of the morass, like the marching band kick drum on "I Made a Bomb." There's a call and response vocal over the country shuffle of "PB+J," and in tying that cheap meal to sex, they make a connection worthy of rockabilly madman Hasil Adkins. Adkins has spent decades celebrating chicken eating, lovemaking and guitar chaos as the fundamentals of life. Coachwhips sure aren't from the mountains of West Virginia, but they've made a little world for themselves that's produced same demented outlook. While the decision to limit their subject matter to banging and fucking is a self-conscious one, the results are as convincingly bad-ass as Jerry Lee Lewis.

Keyboardist Val Tronic plays a big part in the success of their sound. Keys aren't inherently an instrument of abandon – it doesn't matter how hard you hit them; past a certain point, the same thing is going to come out. But there's a bunch of bands right now – Modey Lemon, The Epoxies, the Minds – that are making dinky keyboard chirps add to the recklessness of a song. In the first years of the New Wave, keyboards signified a sort of moderation and commercial ambition in a band. The 20 years of detuned guitar roar that followed have changed the story. Electronic keyboards have a way of cutting though the blowout guitar dynamics that have become the norm. It makes both instruments sound new. Warped and wailing guitar is expected in this sort of music, but the keys leave Coachwhips sounding legitimately untamed.

Every loud band takes a stab at making all parts equally loud, and it almost always makes a mess. These guys have figured out a way to do it. Peanut Butter & Jelly easily equals their other misdeeds, Bangers vs. Fuckers and Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine. Coachwhips are on a roll. They're rutting. They're in season. They are trouble.

By Ben Donnelly

Other Reviews of Coachwhips

Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine

Bangers vs. Fuckers

Double Death

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View all articles by Ben Donnelly

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