Girl Band are the Dubliners who kickstarted the city’s musical revolution in the 2010s, the granddaddies of the scene that has given us Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital. Formed in 2011, Girl Band, they released their début ep France 98 on Any Other City the following year. Their début album, Holding Hands with Jamie, came out in 2015 on Rough Trade. And then…crickets. At least three tours were cancelled due to health issues within the band. And then Dublin exploded with Fontaines and Murder Capital, and the new post-punk scene in England took off, with Idles, Shame, et al. As far as Fontaines DC frontman, Grian Chatten, is concerned, Girl Band re-invented the music scene of Dublin. No pressure, lads.
And now, after Fontaines and Idles got nominated for the Mercury Prize this year, Girl Band explode back onto the scene with The Talkies. And. Jesus. ‘Prolix’ kicks off the album with frontman Dara Kiely having an actual panic attack over a threatening drone of guitars. This is real, it actually is a panic attack he had in studio. And then we’re off to the races with ‘Going Norway,’ and the album kicks you in the head with angular, sharp, and colossal guitars. The drums and bass don’t so much drive a beat as pound it. Kiely doesn’t have the growl that Idles’ frontman Joe Talbot or Murder Capital’s James McGovern, nor does he have the soaring voice of Chatten. Instead, he flails and yells over, through, and under the guitars. He sounds haunted, like he’s on the run from something. Sonically, he sounds like Ed from Ohio from fIREHOSE being chased by a killer.
This is an intense album. One of the things I like most about Canadian punk band Fucked Up is that I walk away from their albums feeling like I’ve been pummelled for an hour. Classic Tricky, meanwhile, the paranoia, closeness, and suffocating nature of his beats and rhymes are what see me listen to him. Girl Band take both of those approached on The Talkies. And in case, gentle reader, should you be thinking this not your bag, allow me to remind you that art is supposed to provoke us. It is supposed to make us think, to challenge our philosophies, it is supposed to provoke an emotional response, if not a physical one.
In terms of songs, Girl Band can write them. ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ kicks off with the drums and a droning bass guitar before Kelly takes the mic. Here, as the droning guitar feedback floats over and back over the music, Kiely wonders who shouldn’t be asking for advice whilst he screams ‘out of the circle’ over and over, on headphones, this song sends chills down my spine. The preceding track, ‘Aibohphobia’ sees Kiely chant out palindromes over a wall of guitars and feedback.
Kelly is the frontman, but this is a band. And what a band. Guitarist Alan Duggan has given up on riffs and chords on this album, instead using effects and feedback to create this haunted, terrifying guitar. Meanwhile, bassist Daniel Fox has turned up the distortion and plays his instrument in the same manner. We get fewer bass lines than just ominous low growls over top of Adam Faulkner’s drums.
Girl Band have returned to reclaim their crown as Dublin’s finest, I daresay.