Even John Kerry had a garage band when he was in high school. It was called the Electras, and according to bandmate Andrew Gagarin, it was formed with the express purpose of picking up chicks. The Coachwhips definitely feel like a garage band with a sloppy, distorted welding of styles
including, but not limited to,’60’s rock, blues, and early punk, but in many ways the typical garage band mold doesn’t fit them at all. After all, the Coachwhips weren’t started by a girl-hungry high schooler, but a musically savvy former metal and noise rocker.
Before starting the Coachwhips, John Dwyer was the guitar playing half of Pink and Brown, whose Shame Fantasy II was released last year on Providence’s Load Records. Pink and Brown produces an intense, time-signature-breaking, technical assault of rhythm and riffage reminiscent of noise rock bands like Lightning Bolt and Hella. The other bands on Dwyer’s resumé include a death metal band called Dig That Body Up It’s Alive. Quite a background for the leader of a garage band.
Still, it’s very tempting to pigeonhole the Coachwhips as garage-punk: Bangers vs. Fuckers, their second album on New York City label Narnack, really sounds like music that should be played in a garage—more so than the typical neo-garage rockers, and even more than their last album did. Bangers is dirtier, louder, and more direct than last year’s Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine; the eleven songs whip by in under 20 minutes.
In addition to the garage-ward trend of the album, there is a greater emphasis on the mod keyboard playing of Val-Tronic, as well as an increased bluesiness in Dwyer’s riff-centric, power chord heavy guitar playing, which is especially evident on “I Knew Her, She Knew Me.” Rounding out the three-piece is drummer Matt Hartman, who is most often found either keeping the tempo with a simple snare and kick drum beat, or banging the shit out of his cymbals. Dwyer’s vocals take the album to another level; they’re always animated, interesting, and catchy in a shout-it-out, rhythmic sort of way. On the other hand, the lyrics are rarely intelligible, as if he were screaming through a payphone. This distortion coats the rest of the band as well, adding to the overall intensity and urgency of the sound. Even the duet “Goodnite, Goodbuy,” a subdued 45-second pop tune that closes the album, cannot escape it. The distortion, along with the deceivingly sloppy execution of the songs, gives Bangers vs. Fuckers a feel of authenticity that more produced garage punk bands lack.
But wait: Distorted vocals, simple drums, retro elements—this is beginning to sound like a description of the Strokes, as if the Coachwhips were getting ready to grace Spin’s cover as the new saviors of rock. Which, of course, will never happen—partly because they don’t sound like the Strokes (no audible debt to Television or Lou Reed) or any of the other hyped garage rock revivalists, and partly because they made a second album that is well worth listening to. But mostly because John Dwyer knows rock doesn’t need to be saved; he knows that there is still plenty of rocking left to be done.
This is probably why Dwyer, as part of Pink and Brown, initially turned to noise rock. Pink and Brown trampled many of the conventional boundaries of song structure, melody, and rhythm, paving unprecedented paths toward the ultimate goal of kicking some fucking ass.
Dwyer seems to be taking a similar approach to the Coachwhips, but placing it in a more traditional garage band context. Bangers vs. Fuckers is full of noise rock influence. Prime examples include “Dancefloor Bathroom,” a beautiful mess of overdriven winds and turns, and “Recline, Recline,” which starts off with a dark, heavy blast of noise before launching into an onslaught of piercing, repetitive hits that could, out of context, easily be mistaken for the work of Pink and Brown.
In the grand scheme of things, the Coachwhips will probably be just one chapter in John Dwyer’s musical life. Whatever style he takes on next, as long as he gives it the same heart as the Coachwhips’ Bangers vs. Fuckers, it will rock.
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