Two years ago, Dublin group Girl Band all but fell off the radar. Citing health issues, they cancelled all tour
engagements and disconnected from the world. Then silence. It would appear that 2015’s debut LP ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’s intense gig schedule and brutal live shows lead the outfit to near collapse. Anyone following Girl Bands’ steep trajectory would have thought they’d called it a day and you wouldn’t blame them for thinking it. After re-grouping away from the glare of the public eye, the Irishmen steadily began working on new material that would become sophomore album ‘The Talkies’; a violent, claustrophobic tour-de-force that pushes the boundaries of noise to unsettling new levels.
There’s a quote in the Oscar nominated (and rather amazing) film, Juno that is pertinent in the case of ‘The Talkies’, Ellen Page’s titular character, in an angry exchange with Jason Bateman’s Mark blurts out “oh and you know what? I bought another Sonic Youth album and it sucked…it’s just noise”. I’d like to quickly point out, Girl Band’s new album does not suck, quite the opposite but it is really fucking noisy and to the uninitiated it could be labelled as “just noise”. Huge chunks of ‘The Talkies’ grinds and whirrs like the four piece have exchanged traditional instruments for malfunctioning power tools. The scale of the maelstrom on offer is matched by Dara Kiely’s agonised yelps and yowls; one track in particular, ‘Amydgala’ finds the frontman screaming, coughing and spluttering like someone expelling the demon from their very soul. Incessant military drumming frames Kiely’s tortured vocals, as his wordless rambles eventually come to an abrupt halt. Elsewhere on ‘The Talkies’ the lyrics are quite frankly bonkers; sometimes they sound feasible, sometimes, not so much! ‘Shoulderblades’ take on nasty shoegaze, wraps broken static around the chuckle worthy “feel like a chicken/act like a cock” and also the odd rants about an “orange door hinge”. When the noise levels are dialled down momentarily, like on ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ a scratchy, stomach churning hum that drones and clacks unnervingly, the vocalist muses “peel off the dead foot skin” and “climb with me through yellow paint”. Taking on a meta approach, ‘Aibohphobia’, the term given to people who have a phobia of palindromes, a song made up entirely of palindromes, performed Kiely, who has this phobia, typifies Girl Band’s penchant for wrestling with extremes and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. There are times when the noise levels become so twisted and contorted, like on ‘Akineton’s distorted melee and ‘Caveat’s Aphex Twin-like freak out or ‘Laggard’s migraine-inducing broken alarm racket, you feel like you’re being pushed to your sonic limits.
The onslaught at times makes ‘The Talkies’ something of an endurance test; some people will compete in Iron Man marathons or mind-chewing brain teasers, but for those of you out there that like a challenging yet rewarding album to warp the cranium and batter the ear-drums, then ‘The Talkies’ is your next Everest.
Words and thoughts of Adam Williams
The Talkies is now available via Rough Trade