Review Summary: Serious contenders for the most loveable band ever
Now I don't take that summary lightly, and I'm sure there are many who would disagree. After all the raincoats are a post punk band in the 'do-it-yourself' vein of "here's three chords, go start a band". Which, of course, means for some discord - there's no escaping it.
Commonly compared to other bands in a similar mind frame such as the slits, and this comparison isn't solely based on the fact each group's lineup are all women (while the slits are commonly considered as the pioneers of 'riot grrrl', the raincoats were another of the sub genre's innovators) but also because each group were not 'musically trained'. I mean this in the sense they were inspired by the huge punk and post-punk bands of their era (they lived in 'rough trade' london and other acts like the pop group from bristol and american outfits like pere ubu were 'blooming') and this meant they picked up instruments with no knowledge of how to play them, and taught themselves.
This is most evident in palmolive's frantic and tribal based drumming, percussive and heavy use of the toms as a driving force in the songs (I think the drumming's great by the way), when she does move to a more traditional rock groove its jumpy and seems as if she's intensely concentrating - she was the former drummer of the slits, who were heavily inspired by tribal percussion. Although in Gina Birch's serenely melodic bass lines, Ana Da Silva's fractured, jerky guitar (which may or may not be on purpose) and Vicky Aspinall's chirpy string section you wouldn't be able to tell of their lack of musical training - it just sounds like skilled players having some fun.
But that is really part of the appeal, where the Slits used that spiky sound to comes across like tribals, the raincoats use their naivety to create a fuzzy sense of fun. Sometimes a certain word never used to describe punk comes to mind, dare I say it, but sometimes the raincoats are even 'cute'.
It's a shocker. In an unpatronising way, it's bloody adorable. And that is a very unique thing.
That's why this album's such a definitive classic, it has all these interesting ways of dealing with and writing music, strange rhythms and jerky instruments, off tune but catchy vocals, the unique sound of a violin in punk music (which adds more 'foot-tapping' appeal) and that sense of fun that underlines the entire album.
If you're listening to the re-issue it starts with their single 'fairytale in the supermarket', a bouncy song and a great intro, but the track listing is confusing on the back and out of place - it puts fairytale as the last track. This album is probably most commonly known for the Raincoat's strange and off-kilter version of the Kinks' 'Lola', a charmingly jumpy and unique cover of a song that seems to be covered all the time. 'The void' (a great slow burning track) way also covered by Hole, and on the inner sleeve notes there is high praise from fan Kurt Cobain who says the album made him 'very happy at a time when I was (shall we say) very sad."
That statement itself is testament to the Raincoats' 'fun factor', it even cheered an adolescent Kurt Cobain up! The odd melodies are infectious, try not to smile as you listen to the excellent album closer 'no looking', or the superb bass line of 'black and white'.
Even though the album itself was produced by Mayo Thompson (from that brilliant 60s psychedelic band 'the red krayola') the songs are never over long (often they seem too short!) and never ever pretentious - hidden within are examinations of women's rights and other political subjects, but they are never over-examined and often wry observations.
The Raincoats sound like a band having fun making music in a process unique to them, and listening to the album (to quote a Mr Cobain) is like "listening in on a band... spying in on them and if I get caught everything will be ruined because its their thing". They really a classic band that have crafted a classic and infectiously fun album of simplistic riffs and rhythms organised in a unique and interesting way.
It won't be to everyone's taste, but for those who get sucked in to that little world of the Raincoats might just find spying on them gloriously fun and entertaining.
The album's an immensely satisfying listen and a landmark of the post-punk scene, it needs more attention.
So serious contenders for the most loveable band of all time, I stand by that.