Release Date: Mar 11, 2014
Record label: Fortuna Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Named after a Big Star song (albeit with a slightly different spelling) Dublin all-girl quintet September Girls have been steadily unleashing limited edition releases since 2012 and, as previously revealed in our ’14 for ‘14’ series, these girls are clearly ones to watch. Formed in 2011, the band has been described as The Bangles playing raw shoegazey garage-pop, aiming for (in their own words) “fuzzy noise-pop with lots of reverb and loud drums”. The Bangles actually covered the song in question, the result being a considerably slower, more polished effort than anything to be found on Cursing The Sea.
As their Bandcamp page so boldly proclaims, 'September Girls are a Dublin-based five piece, playing fuzzy and reverb-soaked garage pop with heaps of harmonies'. I don’t think it’d be especially controversial of me to suggest that none of what’s on offer there is in short supply at the minute; neither, for that matter, are bands with ‘Girls’ as their titular suffix, or stylised, all-female outfits with guitars (there’s actually quite a bit of overlap between the two). Consider, also, that Cursing the Sea arrives in an early January release wasteland that will effectively render it ineligible for end-of-year lists, and it’s quickly apparent that September Girls are up against it with this debut full-length.
There’s a lot surrounding September Girls, even before the music, which makes them fairly irresistible and hard not to love. There’s the name: Big Star by way of the Bangles (small personal fact – the Bangles’ Everything was the first album I ever bought and I still think they’re excellent); there’s the use of the word “Girls” (see also Dum Dum, Vivian and Post War Glamour) and then finally the style, look and pure focus of this Irish five-piece that marks them out as a gang of friends that you’d love to be part of, but deep down inside you know you’d never be as effortlessly cool as them…never mind the fact you’re also slightly intimidated by a note of underlying menace. Cursing the Sea is September Girls’ – the band is made up of Paula Cullen (bass, vocals), Caoimhe Derwin (guitar, vocals), Lauren Kerchner (keyboards, vocals), Jessie Ward (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Grimes (drums) – debut album following their formation in 2011 and release of a handful of songs and EPs (one of which was released by PINS’ Haus of Pins label) which brought them to the attention of Fortuna POP! While Big Star and the Bangles is a good starting point to cover the band’s jangle, the intensity comes from the added darkness pulled from another handful of clear influences like Phil Spector, The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Another day, another ‘60s-worshiping band whose name ends in “girls”. With the “Vivian” out of the picture, you’ll forgive September Girls for jumping to seize some open real estate right next “Dum Dum”. Of course, they’ll have to forgive us if we act like we’ve heard their spiel before. An all-female band posing in black in their press kit and wishing they were in the Jesus and Mary Chain has perhaps one of the most common sights in rock these past few years.
A sudden feeling of precaution emerges once one begins to warm up to the latest female-fronted fuzz pop trio, if only because some of the more promising acts in recent years have proven to be short lived. Either they carve their own path with a notable first statement to then live on the glory of a fleeting memory (Tiger Trap, Talulah Gosh), to then amend the past by reuniting with a renewed determination to then disappear (Dansette Dansette, All Girl Summer Fun Band), or simply outstay their welcome before going through a quiet period (Vivian Girls, Puro Instinct). Let’s just say that enrolling a C-86 inspired band for liability insurance isn’t the best idea, so it’s best to enjoy their presence while they’re still standing.
The debut album by Dublin’s September Girls arrives in the wake of six singles, released inside less than two years. That’s the sort of workrate that harks back to a bygone era of independent music – as does their dark-hearted, harmonic fuzz-rock. Enthusiasts of the sound September Girls offer – at the nexus between 60s girl group sounds, ’70s buzzsaw punk chug and ’80s indiepop naiveté – have had plenty to keep them sated in the past half-decade or so.
Dublin, Ireland-based indie quintet September Girls followed the same initial trajectory as many of their noise pop contemporaries. Coming together in 2011, the group quickly developed a reverb-heavy sound drawing on equal parts melodic pop and dour goth undercurrents, accentuated by keyboardist Lauren Kerchner's looming Farfisa drones. Early tracks leaked out on quickly devoured cassettes and 7" releases and September Girls' profile grew as they played increasingly buzzworthy gigs.
Here's a Dublin quintet drawing from the same indiepop-goes-gothic well as Veronica Falls' first album, with fuzz standing in for jangle, and enough reverb slapped on to make it sound like they're not just drawing from a well, but recording their debut album at the bottom of it. Truth be told, the reverb gets a bit wearing – you find yourself longing for a little more clarity, and wondering if at times it might be employed to conceal some shortcomings in the songwriting. But on Heartbeats – clean and sharp, at least by the standards of the rest of the album – September Girls hit on a thrilling garage pop riff, with a chorus that sticks, and backing harmonies that lift it above the competition, while the organ on Talking gives it a immersive, swirling, droning, psychedelic feel.
Their fuzzy guitars, layered female harmonies and reverb-doused, distortion-dredged everything does not make this Dublin five piece the most arrestingly novel concept. Their name too (a homage to the Big Star song) is a bit unfortunate in calling to mind those girls Dum Dum and Vivian who've gone before them. But even if their formula is nothing new, something sleek and sinewed runs through their songs that gives urgency to the unkempt and noisy haze.
September Girls’ press bio says they named themselves after “a Big Star song via the Bangles.” Not sure where that lands them on the clued-in meter (I love both bands, so don’t ask me), but suffice it to say, it probably seems really cool to even know who either band is to a young woman growing up in a small town in Ireland right now. To their friends, September Girls are no doubt the coolest girls in the room. To many music scroungers in America, they might seem like a classic case of a U.K.