After four years of silence since their 2015 debut Holding Hands With Jamie, eclectic No-Wave tinged Noise Rock group Girl Band are finally back with brand new music. The followup to one of my absolute favorite albums of all time definitely has some gigantic shoes to fill. Upon hearing Girl Band had come out of their hiatus and announced a new album with a fresh single to boot, I was filled with mixed emotions. How could Girl Band live up to the expectations that I had placed on them at that point? Well it’s safe to say that my anxiety (in one form I suppose) was squashed by the lead single for the album, “Shoulderblades”. A maniacal duality of tension and noise assaulted my eardrums and I was instantly locked back into their dissonant groove. Distorted guitar squeals, eerie ambiance, poetic but intense vocal delivery, by god Girl Band killed it with this cut. Well I was sold on the initial preview so I suppose that leads into what I thought with the rest of the album doesn’t it?
Similar to their debut, The Talkies is divided into chunks of tense rest and intense unrest. However this album somehow descends further into the void of madness. The opener “Prolix” is a clear indicator of this, with what I have to assume is an oscillating guitar loop and bass with Dara’s worrisome inconsistent breathing. An indicator of the madness to come. The second single, “Going Norway”, truly kicks the album off by showing off their instrumental experimentation I’ve come to love so well. The high-attack almost organ quality bass guitar tone that warps the perception of the track. The drums are perfectly balanced between acoustic stick hits and blasts of intensity. The guitar shifts wildly from muted strumming to distorted tape loops. This transitions quite well into “Shoulderblades”, which honestly takes on such greater presence after a more “conventional” cut. “Couch Combover” was and great surprise to me. For once there is a small bit of vocal melody and adds such a strange dynamic to the whole of the track. It doesn’t stay for too long though, in many ways this is one of the more deranged deliveries by Dara. Midway through the track, he takes an almost sarcastic and cynical tone to the melody and trends toward a maniacal “la-la-la”. All while the rest of the band is just monotonously pounding and pulsating. It is probably one of the most claustrophobic cuts they have ever put out. You know those nightmares where you try to run or escape from something but can’t move? This track epitomizes that feeling in the best way possible.
Quite honestly the whole album is nightmarish. The next track “Aibohphobia” is extremely clever, reference to the phobia of palindromes which fits in perfectly to the lyrical content. It is descent into lower and lower fidelty, as distortion rises and Dara sings in palindromes, to great uncomfortable effect. Not only that, but various aspects of the instrumentals themselves, in particular the drums, were played forward and backward back-to-back. Instilling fear by palindromes indeed! “Salmon of Knowledge” is next with what I can only describe as Noise Bossa-Nova. I feel like gyrating myself to this groove. The bipolar delivery over this kind of beat just works so well. I find myself falling in love with their signature muddied guitar drone blasts again and again. “Akineton” is just horrifying, a noise collage that loops and adds all manner of distortion and demented atmosphere until it finally culminates suddenly into silence and then suddenly into the “Amygdala”. This cut is just as horrifying, only trading the instrumental insanity with the lyrical. Dara literally switches between muttering and yelling absolute nonsense in physical agony. Speaking of Dara’s vocal agony, “Caveat” is definitely another great example. I’m worried much less about extreme Metal vocalists voices than I am of Dara’s, let alone his mental sanity. Instrumentally this cut takes an interesting turn as well, almost having a march like beat with their trademark blasts of noise. They’ve somehow invented their own version of the orchestra hit and it just kills every time.
The final three tracks of the album really just amount to two, those being “Laggard” and “Prefab Castle”. The former is, quite frankly, the most intense song they’ve put out. There is no escape early on from the distorted guitar dissonance and stereo panning of eerie feedback as layer after layer of instrumentation is added in. But like a roller-coaster meeting the primary drop after short introductory ride, the true thrill awaits. After a period of quiet and sweet melody (by Girl Band standards anyways), the song fall off the edge of the map and any eardrums that remain are busted. “Prefab Castle” stands toe-to-toe with “Shoulderblades” as my favorite tracks on the album. While I could say Girl Band’s brand of groovy dissonant Noise Rock has dance-able moments, this takes this cake. It is near uncontrollable how the components of this track want to make me contort myself in public. I absolutely love the “A Day In The Life” sort of break in the track, with a combative string-like climax that transitions into the back-half groove extremely well. “Ereignis” is probably the only low point on the entire record for me. As a closer, it doesn’t do anything for me and if anything just begs the question as to why it existed at all. The ending of “Prefab Castle” was good enough, but maybe a more fleshed out track would have been even better than “Ereignis”. But in any case, this is just a minor closing nitpick to what I would call one of the year’s best albums.
So did Girl Band surpass their debut? No, but I am extremely pleased with the results. In a way I am happy they didn’t, a selfish reason of course due to my sentimentality of that album but really they expanded on their sound in all of the right ways. I loved the way they experimented with more dynamic songwriting. While their sonic palate was what I had come to expect from the group, they executed on it extremely well. Even though the album unfortunately fizzled out a bit at the end, the rest of the track-list was exactly up my alley. Grooves were tight, noise and tension levels were high, and my body was contorting to every bit. My emotions and perceptions of reality were played with all throughout. In my opinion, very few projects have that ability to subvert reality through music like Girl Band does. The primal but technical nature of the group has such a unique dynamic and this album only expands on that aspect. At the end of the day, Girl Band are back and I have every reason to be excited for future projects. This is an excellent project, an amazing return, and easily one of the best albums you should listen to this year.