Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.

music Home > Record Reviews

Sound Tracks

Coughs: Fright Makes Right

Coughs: Fright Makes Right

Release Date:2005

Coughs play the Talking Head June 12 with the New Flesh, Aleuchatistas, and White Mice.

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 6/8/2005

Though essential to postpunk, jazz jams, ska, 1980s Hollywood scores, and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid, the saxophone is the unacknowledged scourge of scuzz rock. Played straight or half-assed, the instrument’s wail is an unpleasant, unrelenting distraction from the spectacle of abused guitars and drum kits, causing the already uninterested to flee faster and the initiated to look like Randy Jackson shell-shocked by a horrid audition.

To accept the racket wrought by Chicago outfit Coughs on their debut, you must be able to embrace their unapologetic sliming of so-so noise rock not just with James Flanagan’s sax bleats but also Anya Davidson’s voice-box-strained, bratty-li’l-sister-of-riot-grrls singing. That Fright Makes Right’s half-hour feels twice as long is another hurdle.

See “Elephant,” where Kate Gronner’s crochet-needle guitar stitches through waves of sax honk that part for Davidson to rant-scream indecipherably, as if she’s trying out for a Hole cover band. Her piercing shrieks bounce off the band’s trampoline-squeak mass crunches on “Animal Hospital” and lead a meltdown charge on “Mail Order,” a huffing, puffing tangle of rutting sax, electronics, guitars, and drums that strains to blow your patience down. “Garter Snake” slows this dynamic into a grinding, snail’s-crawl Hades.

Then Coughs go and toss off a goofy, campfire sing-along like “Come Back to Me”—Davidson cigarette-hoarse and exhausted, percussionist Seth Sher playing a banjo and singing like a mental patient, each using the same melody but different lyric sheets. Later, Gronner’s stunning, cat’s-cradled floss guitar figures save “Penal Colony” from the onslaught surrounding them. Moments like these hold glimpses of what Coughs could someday blossom into.

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter