Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
OVERRATED, VOLUME 4 : THE RAINCOATS…..After castigating THE POP GROUP, THE DICTATORS and THE MONKS in these pages previously, I thought I might get an equal opportunity female flogging in there somewhere, and speak truth to power regarding UK post-punk pantywaists THE RAINCOATS. Now, this might be a no-brainer to many of you, but remember around 1993 and NIRVANAmania, when every band that ever appeared in Kurt Cobain’s record collection came ripe for instant canonization? Kurdt actually nailed it more often than not – YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS and the VASELINES were among the boats lifted by the rising tide of grunge, but in the mix as well were those three perplexingly boring LPs by The Raincoats. David Geffen and his megacorp even went and reissued them with much fanfare in hopes of Nirvana coattails. All 3 of them landed on US shores with a popular thud, despite many critical hosannas.

What’s my beef with The Raincoats? Nothing, really, just that I can’t find a single song of theirs that can rub elbows with their lesser-heralded girl-led compatriots the DELTA 5 or AU PAIRS. (Or even lesser lights from the UK post-punk/pop/rhythm scene like the DOLLY MIXTURE, GIRLS AT OUR BEST!, SLITS, MO-DETTES or MARINE GIRLS). Their first record had that one halfway decent cover of “Lola”, and an OK punkish number called “Fairytale in the Supermarket”. The follow-up records are really, really uneven, packed with filler and devoid of any real excitement or even coherence. Of special non-mention is the LP entitled “Odyshape”, which I couldn’t even get all the way through last time I tried. What is missing is any real oomph and drive, or any connection to the multitude of crazy punk-influenced styles bursting all over 1979-82 England. Even if they’d “funkified” their thin gruel a little, it’d be better than the often formless, near-“pop” music evinced on their LPs. And yet the Everett Trues and Robert Christgaus of the world pretend like they were major links in the chain, while giving short shrift to multitudes of true players from the era. I think it’s time someone took a stand on the issue. The Raincoats = OVERRATED!