NPR logo The Raincoats

The Raincoats

What is it about The Raincoats? If you haven't heard of the band, now is the time. (It will be of help to you that Kill Rock Stars has just reissued the band's first LP). If you have listened to The Raincoats' music, then you know that the London-based late-'70s post-punk group — which has re-formed intermittently over the years and is currently playing another round of shows — has always inspired a sense of wonder and a sense of worship.

It's difficult for me to pinpoint when I first heard The Raincoats' music. Most certainly, it was in Olympia, wherein all of my major and most informative musical discoveries took place (aside from my sophomore and junior years of high school). In that dreary-weathered town, lit up with bright, unceasing ideas and enthusiasm, there were so many records and shows and bands that tore into my world. The Raincoats didn't so much intrude on my world as make it shimmer. To hear the band's songs for the first time was to light a sparkler in a room, each song a tiny, magnificent and uneven torch. The music had shape and then was shapeless, wonky edges with pure, glowing centers. I would listen and think, "How?"

Only a few of my friends actually owned The Raincoats' albums. They had toured England with their own bands, perhaps even met the members of The Raincoats; they had been gifted the music or were lucky enough to have stumbled upon it in some heavily stocked record store that — at least at the time — underpriced every punk and new-wave band featuring a woman. Delta 5, Kleenex, Liliput, Mo-Dettes, Au Pairs, Dolly Mixture: Were these rare singles really only $2? Yes! And I have a record collection to prove it.

It wasn't until 1999 that I found the first Raincoats LP for myself. I was on tour in Athens, Ga., shopping at a record store near The 40 Watt Club. I might have even asked the clerk whether he had the album, which was odd, because the answer to a question like that is invariably "no." But then, as if he'd been waiting for me to come in and inquire about that very record, he went over to the bins and pulled the pink and yellow cover out and... [gasp, jaw drop] there it was! Like it was nothing! I purchased the LP for around $20. I was so excited, so very much in a state of shock and elation, that I ran back to the 40 Watt and called Calvin Johnson back in Olympia to tell him the news. Let it be known that I have never called anyone before or since to tell them that I'd purchased a record.

I get to see The Raincoats for the first time this Friday. Needless to say, I am ready.