Coughs - Secret Passage Review
by Mark Hensch
Coughs are an intriguing sixtet, and on their new album Secret Passage, the order of the day appears to be playing rock 'n roll with as much OOOOMPPPH as possible. This sort of jittery, bad-for-your-health spazzrock (think the sugar of rock candy, and then the actual weighty crunch of the candy's texture itself) has a lot of bombast but plenty of garage rock caffeine too. The end result is an album full of meth-addled anthems that shake your walls, and provide much entertainment as added value.
Right away, the angular stutters that comprise "Quagmire" should show you something strange is afoot. With two bass players, two percussionists (with an affinity for oil drums no less) and even a keyboardist/saxophonist, Coughs offer a lot in the average hiccup of their spazz rock. The vocals are a coked out tantrum of pre-pubescent rage; it is the kind of boyish chaos that people either love or hate, with no distinct middle ground. All of the songs have an almost shamanistic thrum to them, yet still maintain their own individual identities and tunes. Take "Dark Powers" for example. It features titanic percussion, chugging groove, and keyboard notes soaked in neon-colored vomit. "Fencing" allows the twin percussionists to duel, while the moody "Colors and the way they make you Feel" sways with a demented swagger to twisted saxophone howls and murderous guitar troughs. Its followup in the scathing "Ditch That Zero" buzzes like a swarm of angry hornets all before going into the heaviest dance beat a person can hear. Meanwhile, tracks like "Bunny Slope" and ""The Horse, He's Sick" sound like a droning Blood Brothers party covered in mud. As if that isn't enough, the ambient hum that starts off "15 Hole (Quinze Trous)" seems monumental, or at least it does before the diesel-engine anarchy of the guitar/rhythm section pummeling comes in. Meanwhile, such random song arrangements are welded to much heavier tendencies on songs like say "International Community." It really sounds like a bunch of Neanderthal teenagers jamming out to primitive, archaic punk rock some alien time-traveler exploited.
Weird yet vaguely familiar, Coughs is unique on the LOAD Records label as it isn't really a law unto itself but more a reinterpretation of an older style of rock music. All too often the hyperactive ADD of various "spazz" acts has seemed childish, absurd, or even outright cartoonish; with the novel approach of a thundering rhythm section, Coughs has eliminated this misconception by giving the song physical weight. With this in mind, if you're a person who likes eating super-sweet junk food AND then watching your body expand with added poundage, this is the album to you. This is an excellent addition to the LOAD Records catalog and also an amazing place to start for people new to that label.
2. Happy Harvest
3. Dark Powers
4. Life of Acne
6. Bunny Slope
7. Colors and the way they make you Feel
8. Ditch That Zero
9. 15 Hole (Quinze Trous)
10. International Community
11. The Horse, He's Sick
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Coughs - Secret Passage
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