Release Date: Apr 21, 2015
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Noise Pop, Noise-Rock
Ask John Lydon: Anger is an energy, but disco is a weapon. Like so many other first-wave punks and post-punks — Wire, Joy Division, the Clash and Blondie, just to name a handful — Johnny Rotten eventually discovered that setting his shredding guitars and caterwauling vocals to a dance-floor thump gave his music a power and an immediacy beyond just going faster, louder, and further out of control. The lesson has been well-heeded by generations of underground rock bands since, with discopunk even briefly bubbling up as the Sound of the Moment in the early-mid-’00s, led by bands like the Rapture, !!!, and LCD Soundsystem.
The obvious joke with Girl Band is that the Irish quartet features no girls (and not everyone’s laughing), but really, the bigger misdirection lies in calling themselves a band. Sure, their composition conforms to standard punk-rock parameters—yelping singer, fuzzbox-tweaking guitarist and bassist, pugilistic drummer—but even at its most ferocious, their music lacks the emotionally raw, primal catharsis we associate with post-hardcore acts. They come off more like steely lab technicians administering shock treatment for dubious purposes.
Dublin-based all-male foursome Girl Band have been making noise since 2011, releasing several handmade limited-edition singles and EPs on the Any Other City label. Rough Trade signed the group in 2015, and the group's first widely available release was the Early Years EP, which contained tracks from the band's singles from 2014, as well as their attention-grabbing 2013 cover of Blawan's horror-techno anthem "Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?" Even more perverse than the cover's mere existence is the fact that Girl Band's rendition is a full two minutes longer than the six-minute original. Blawan's track looped the titular phrase (sampled from the Fugees' "How Many Mics") over ghastly howls and pounding beats, and Girl Band singer Dara Kiely repeats the sinister phrase ad nauseum, building it up to fierce shrieking covered with sheets of harsh guitar.
"Lawman," the opening track on The Early Years, begins by easing you in to Girl Band's world of noise with a sparse, simple beat and repeating fuzzed-out guitar riff that's relatively gentle given the wholly absorbing assault they're about to unleash. From "Lawman," the band's sound spirals relentlessly downward into a solid block of noise, and Dara Kiely's unleashes his painful, breathless howls. The album holds fast to the same course through the vicious "De Bom Bom" and a slurred cover of Beat Happening's "I Love You," and by the time they get to the eight-minute cover of Blawan's "Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?" they've got you by the throat, held hostage on what feels like a thrash-y and somehow more demented version of the boat ride from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
It’s the cover of “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” that makes Girl Band more of a dance band than a (noise) rock band. The Dublin four-piece’s cover of Blawan’s horror-techno track is the centre piece of The Early Years EP, a neat way of collecting the band’s releases to date and clears a path to the much awaited debut full-length in the autumn. When I say “dance band” I don’t mean in the way you might dance to The Strokes at a club night, but dance in the sense that the music Girl Band makes has as much in common with the brutalist minimal techno of the likes of Container, or the frightening soundscapes created by Ben Frost – and the group has already professed a love for Daft Punk, no strangers to a loop or two.