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Jenn Pelly

The Raincoats

Published by Bloomsbury

Mar 13, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The Raincoats’ eponymous debut is one of the unique albums ever to manifest itself on 12” vinyl. Its openness, awareness, and honesty are all part of the magic that drew in fans such as Kurt Cobain and Tobi Vail and, as author Jenn Pelly points out, would have the band referenced decades later in such films as 10 Things I Hate About You and 20th Century Women. It is a record that could only be made by women, and although Pelly doesn’t labor over this, she does an excellent job of showing its truth. Pelly writes of how, without any pretension or the slightest concern for the surface fashion of the movement, The Raincoats embodied the true expressive spirit of punk, and how these four women created music that was very much of their lives rather than by using any proven yet worn-out formulas. As such the record is both fragile and strong, a paradox that males would have a hard time holding. Through interviews with the band and those around them, Pelly does a great job of showing how The Raincoats were a collective unit that dealt with the isolation of the individual, another paradox that need not be resolved, and thus very much connected with an audience of similar souls. The book is well-researched, presenting the times of the band’s inception and record’s creation as well as its impact on 90s Seattle and Olympia, the riot grrrl movement, and beyond. Pelly keeps the band member bios concise enough to be informative and her analysis of the songs are thorough and thought-provoking. The history is filled out with quotes from reviews (good, bad, and baffled), fellow musicians’ appraisals (Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, who penned the inscription in the original vinyl, offers up some wonderful thoughts on their art), and excerpts from singer/guitarist Ana da Silva’s Raincoats Booklet. There’s even the account of their being the first punk band to play in communist Poland. Pelly’s book is a fine addition to the 33 1/3 canon, dealing with an album that is most worthy of being analyzed even while its very nature escapes any definite conclusions. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Bill Smith
August 31st 2018

Jen Pelly’s writing sucks.