Album Review: Girl Band – ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’

gbModern art isn’t real art, right?

Take Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’. It’s just some messy sheets with a few empty fag packets strewn about. Anyone could do that, right?

With this in mind, do Girl Band make real music? A mess of loud instruments with a bit of talking and shouting underneath. Anyone could do it, right?

Wrong.

This is one of those occasions when you have to take a band with a joke name (frontman Dara Kiely, guitarist Alan Duggan, bassist Daniel Fox and drummer Adam Faulkner make up the numbers) seriously.

Officially formed in 2011 in Dublin after years of playing together as teenagers, the following year they self-produced an EP (‘France ’98‘) and in early 2015 released the drily-titled ‘The Early Years‘ EP.

Their debut album ‘Holding Hands With Jamie‘ now comes out amidst previous comparisons to grunge and Nirvana‘s ‘Bleach‘-era in particular, though a more accurate comparison would be a hybrid of ‘Nevermind‘s ‘Endless Nameless‘ and ‘In Utero‘s ‘Tourette’s‘.

Umbongo‘ harries the start of the album with descending guitar notes and frenzied drumming, abruptly cutting off for Kiely’s mournful cries over the unusual predicament of getting into a scrap with a pigeon. In the way that expendables in films can’t help naïvely checking if the maniac really is dead, the track borders on being scary yet at the same time too overpowering to resist.

“I look crap with my top off”, admits a deadpan Kiely on ‘Pears For Lunch‘ over a more orderly beat this time. Hopes of neater sounds are left unanswered until ‘Baloo‘, where the first signs of rhythm and dance surface in a nifty guitar riff. For all their yelling and hammerings, they are a band to move to. (Listen to the EP songs ‘De Bom Bom‘ and ‘You’re a Dog‘ for evidence.) Has ever a song accused someone of being a “professional cock” until this one though? Unlikely.

It’s the lyrics, and the delivery of them, that appeal as much as the music. Difficult to parse amongst all the unceasing loudness, stream of consciousness-style sentences. Inspired by Kiely’s breakdown after a break-up, “Lick your own, lick your own, lick your arm deodorant”, on the jarring ‘In Plastic‘; “Whispering sweet nothings sugar-free,it’s all we can see”, is wheezed out on ‘Paul‘ – a seven-minute number with a wobbling bass-line and screeching that feels as if you’re suddenly privy to a violent crime in motion.

Like the previous EPs, the album is self-produced (with a little outside engineer help) and was recorded live in a Dublin studio. The vocals maintain an aloof quality and, beyond distortion, Duggard’s guitar feels left alone to its own inventions, frightening once again on the brief ‘The Last Riddler‘.

Texting An Alien‘ is a minute by minute account of wearing Lynx Africa to throwing biscuits that invariably results in screaming, but it’s the album’s best chance to collect itself under some mellow guitar work before the longest track, ‘Fucking Butter‘, gains some groove towards the end and ‘The Witch Doctor‘ finishes things off as intensely as they started 40 minutes ago.

Describing something as amorphous, as melodically slender, as Girl Band has its perils. They don’t quite fit into grunge, punk, goth or rock. And neither do they seem to appreciate being labelled (the Nirvana comparison irking most). Nor should they have to be given an identity. But we’ll go on trying to and ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’ is possibly as new and fresh a noise as there is today.

Girl Band: please carry on being intractable.

(Steven White)

Learn More

Leave a Reply