Post-punk seems to be back and stronger than ever, with bands such as Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital or black midi releasing critically acclaimed albums in 2019. But every genre has its starting point and even post-punk would not have been the same today without a couple of legendary bands. Rest assured, The Raincoats are one of them, a cult act embodying that DYI approach and raw British rock-’n-roll spirit. But it is a reputation that was built up over time, thanks to the at that moment all-female band creating their self-titled debut in 1979, only years later picked up by many riot-grrrl bands and even the late Kurt Cobain. Therefore, 40 years after that peculiar debut and the cult status that followed, The Raincoats celebrate the anniversary on Le Guess Who? of all places. Location: Pandora in TivoliVredenburg.
Text: Merijn Siben / Photography: Erik Luyten
The Raincoats was formed by guitarist Ana Da Silva and bassist Gina Birch in 1977, after being inspired by a live performance of punk band The Slits. It became a revelation for Birch, seeing girls perform such chaotic punk rock and doing their own thing. After morphing into an all-girl band in 1979, they released the eponymous debut album, simply titled The Raincoats. With three of the four members living in squats, the raw sound feels like a trip back in time to the late 70’s, born out of grey British neighborhoods and a DIY-attitude plastered all over it. The album became a cult classic over time and a huge influence on riot-grrrl bands and grunge artists alike, with Kurt Cobain counting the debut as one of his favorite records. Therefore it seems only fitting that the band, still lead by Da Silva and Birch celebrates its’ 40th anniversary by playing the debut in full.
Besides Da Silva and Birch, The Raincoats also has Anne Wood as violinist and back-up guitarist and Vice Cooler performing the drums. With some experimental, almost avant-garde undertones, The Raincoats’ brand of post-punk is delightfully kooky and, as it turns out today, a whole heap of fun. “We’re doing the cd version tonight, so technically it’s not 40 years”, quips Gina Birch, followed by a screechy rendition of opener Fairytales in the Supermarket. Besides the almost cacophonic vocals and rough power chords of Di Salva, it’s the pounding drums from Vice Cooler and the amazing violin sounds of Anne Wood that provide a solid foundation for the guitars. And it is the little details that show why The Raincoats were in a way so ahead of their time, incorporating a harmonica during No Side To Fall or the folk influences in a song such as The Void. Tracks like Off Duty Trip or In Love serve as highlights, with equally catchy choruses and adventurous rhythm changes. This is topped off with some modest bantering courtesy of Di Salva and Birch as well as a visible chemistry between the band members, oozing with a love for playing rock-’n-roll.
In all honesty though, The Raincoats’ music may sound a tad antique nowadays, but it’s undeniably the punk attitude and knack for fun songwriting that gives The Raincoats its timeless feel. Even more so when performed live by these four musicians, still rocking out and having fun years later. Which ultimately makes the debut an intriguing time-capsule and a sign of things to come in the 40 years that followed, influencing some of history’s biggest bands along the way. As Birch jokingly proclaims near the end of the show: “We should do this every 40 years.” Damn right.