Girl Band – The Talkies
Girl Band build on the sound of their influential debut album with their second record, The Talkies
On their arrival in 2011, Girl Band were the absolute godsend guitar music needed. Abrasive but tuneful, funny but wildly emotional, and without a sonically retrograde bone in their body. With a brilliant debut album (2015's Holding Hands With Jamie) under their belts, glowing reviews and seemingly at the point of breaking through into fairly uncharted levels of success considering the harshness of the music they were making, health problems took them off the road for a good few years. There’s enormous expectation on this return, and Girl Band don’t disappoint.
Sonically, they are fundamentally still working with their pre-existing techniques, particularly on second single Going Norway; drum patterns akin to minimal techno, whirrs of buzzsaw guitar, and stomach-churning bass that comes in drones and pulses as often as it does in traditional bass lines, all building towards crescendos of screeching claustrophobic noise. But the manner in which they use these elements has an incredible dynamism. Couch Combover rests upon vocalist Dara Kiely’s underrated ability for writing vocal lines, building from just his voice and a shallow stab of guitar to sounding like someone trying to shout diving fighter jets out of the sky.
It’s ultimately these sorts of builds in momentum, tension and intensity that Girl Band still do better than anyone else. For its first two minutes, Laggard sounds like a panicked alarm for some shady research lab before building into a huge menacing maelstrom, before dropping away almost entirely without losing any of its tension.
The Talkies is also, conversely, a far looser record at points than Holding Hands With Jamie. Less indebted to the tautness of punk, and closer to a latter-day Scott Walker record in the way Kiely’s vocals are allowed to roam the instrumental space. Album centrepiece Salmon of Knowledge has an almost Doors-like jazz rattle to its opening, creating a huge yet tactile landscape for the vocals to wander around. Similarly, on Shoulderblades, Alan Duggan’s guitars groan like moving icebergs creating these cavernous spaces that give Kiely’s blackly funny take on split personalities a real emotional scale.
The Talkies is a superb return, with Girl Band building upon what they know they can do but without resting on their laurels. Still experimenting, still funny, still brilliant.
Listen to: Laggard, Shoulderblades, Couch Combover