Release Date: Sep 27, 2019
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
A month back, I spoke highly about The Murder Capital and their breakout debut record When I Have Fears. However, I also mentioned how the Dublin, overall, was experiencing its own post-punk revival, and what a revival it has turned out to be! With bands like the aforementioned and even Fontaines D.C. releasing two of the most critically-acclaimed records this year, enough room was left for one more act to perfect the holy trinity of Irish punk greatness--that act being the ever-obnoxious Girl Band and their sophomore record The Talkies.
Ever wondered what a guitar band playing techno would sound like? Or whether an artful punk could deliver spoken word soundbites over crushing, droning, industrial textures? Or just whether you'd ever hear the name Ricki Lake in 2019? Wonder no more, because where the unlikely meets the possible - that’s the exact space Girl Band inhabit. It's easy to salute bands for ‘doing their own thing’, but the Irish cult heroes are really doing their own thing. Like a scene from Indiana Jones, if another act tried to open Girl Band's particular ark it might just melt their face off.
After laying dormant for nearly a half decade, Irish quartet Girl Band open their new album with a self-administered stethoscope test. "Prolix" isn't so much a song as a diagnosis--for nearly two minutes, we hear nothing but frontman Dara Kiely's breathing over an ominous, reverberating drone. But as the track goes on, Kiely's breaths turn harder, faster, and louder, until he's desperately gulping air like a desert roamer sucking on their canteen.
More than just an Irish noise rock group, Girl Band are a state of mind. As pretentious as that sounds, both their approach to songwriting and their lyrical subject matter reflect the struggle between order and chaos found in conflicted thinking. The claustrophobia of crushing sounds contrasted with brief moments of reprieve make for a strong representation of a brain at war with itself.
Written entirely in one key and containing no pronouns, the Irish noise-rock band's comeback album finds them on singular, sensational form The fact that Girl Band's second album exists at all is something of a surprise. Having cancelled their planned tour midway through 2017 owing to ongoing health issues, the band disappeared off the map for two years, with many assuming that their delirious, fantastic debut album 'Holding Hands With Jamie' would remain their one and only full-length. The first year of this 24 months away didn't see the band play in the same room at all, but the second saw them craft new album 'The Talkies' in secret, a second effort that cements the Dublin quartet as the most exciting noise rock band around.
In November 2018, Dublin-based quartet Girl Band moved into Ballintubbert House to record the slowburn noise rock they have become known for and, as guitarist Alan Duggan described, "make an audio representation of the house." Much like this spacious, alienating building that Girl Band try zealously to put into music, their second full-length The Talkies is both shocking and larger than life, but also has its moments of emptiness. Taking a similar approach to their chaotic and dissonant 2015 debut, Holding Hands With Jamie, Girl Band ….
F our years on from their debut - and after three tours were cancelled due to health issues in the band - Irish quartet Girl Band rejoin the fray sounding invigorated. Coming back amid a wider post-punk scene that's also as vital as it's been in years, they stay true to the spirit of the genre: slipping through definition, resisting comfort, and ducking on to the dancefloor. Their strongest work comes with studies in sustain and release, which form some truly magnificent songs.
This is a beautiful album from Girl Band, but not conventionally. Its bespoke aesthetics depict the sense of a particular space, one where panic, desperation, anger, paranoia and claustrophobia are found. Recorded last year at Ireland's historic Ballintubbert House - an unlikely setting for Dublin's idiosyncratic punk outfit - this second album sees them create an impressionist series of snapshots, a sonic representation of the house they were occupying.
A n attempt to sonically recreate Ballintubbert House, the 18th-century manor near Dublin in which it was recorded, Irish quartet Girl Band's second album is a true haunted-house horror. Opening with the scrappy breaths of a panic attack, snarled in uneasy, slithering electronics, The Talkies sets their roguish, Fall and Liars-indebted noise among unnerving effects and dynamics designed to alarm. Going Norway layers frontman Dara Kiely's howls over stabbing, flanged guitars, while Shoulderblades finds dark mutterings about Ricki Lake and Ed Mordake - rendered all the more nightmarish by Kiely's deliberate removal of all pronouns - lost among panning metallic rumbles.