What does it sound like?:
I don’t know if the average Afterword reader/contributor will dig this record, but if you think you’ve heard everything that a guitarist, bass player, drummer and singer can possibly do then give this, the second album from Dublin four piece Girl Band a spin.
This is an intense and violent record. That’ll put some of you off right away – and yet I bet you’ll happily watch an intense and violent film or Binge-Boxset right?
I’ll do my best to sing about the architecture here. Singer Dara Kiely alternates between a creepily blank half-spoken vocal style and screaming to the limits of his lungs. Musically, there isn’t much in the way of recognisable chords and melody lines – but this isn’t some one-note Psych Rock drone – guitars burst, crackle and explode violently and the bass comes in swoops, rumbles and punches. Once you get used to what they do it starts to take on a musicality of sorts – like your car engine or a revving motorbike. What Girl Band lack in hum-able tunes they more than make up for in rhythm. The drummer is awesome and there are some colossal beats going on. Try ‘Shoulderblades’ – suddenly we’re in Glam Rock territory – it’s the Glitter Band jamming with My Bloody Valentine and Einstürzende Neubauten. This isn’t random noise and thrash – and you have to be a pretty good musician to play the same atonal noise, the same way twice.
Vocalist Dara Kiely has had some pretty severe, well documented challenges with his mental health. If you catch them live, it’s like watching a cross between Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis which is thrilling but also somewhat troubling. Fortunately Dara has a vigilant record label and band who know when it’s time to cancel a tour, take a hiatus and give the guy time to recover and do what he does. Dara confronts you from the off and invites you to spend a moment inside his head as the album starts with a recording of him trying to control his breathing and stave off a panic attack. It’s chilling and upsetting – so when the band crash in it’s something of a relief to be back in the relatively comfortable zone of the sheets of white noise guitar, clattering percussion and cathedral wobbling bass wih Dara alternating between that creepily blank half-spoken vocal style and screaming to the limits of his lungs “And Why..Is Death…So ALIVE”.
Their debut ‘Holding Hands with Jamie’ was brutally impressive but it was a bit one-note, musically and tonally but this one is far more varied, songs suddenly drop down to a loop and a vocal with as near to a melody as they want to get or change gear suddenly mid song – and like all great records you never know what’s going to happen next. By the time we get to the epic ‘Prefab Castle’ what sounds like strings kicks in (or it could be some mangled guitar FX) and it dawns on me that Girl Band are the nearest a ‘rock band’ has got to the kind of music Scott Walker was making on Tilt or Bisch Bosch. Yep – we’re in that territory.
What does it all *mean*?
This is a staggeringly original record. It is an exhilarating and occasionally terrifying thrill ride. They’ve been saying ‘Rock is Dead’ for years – and there’s a good case for that when Rock equals the stupefyingly dull likes of Blossoms or an endless parade of Alt-Country rockers reenacting the mid-1970s or the huge, ever-growing sludge heap of generic Psych. Girl Band are one of the few groups around who are showing the same level of innovation and forward propulsion as Dance/R&B/Grime acts.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Joy Division, Liars, The Pop Group, The Fall, Black Midi, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, LCD Soundsystem, 4AD era-Scott Walker.