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GIRL BAND The Talkies gets 8/10


Girl Band

The Talkies
Rough Trade/Remote Control

8/10

Girl Band made a name for themselves in 2015, setting a standard for experimental rock for the 2010s with a set of jarring tunes on debut Holding Hands With Jamie, that meshed post-punk, noise and electronic music. If anything these Dublin lads have grown crustier with age, as The Talkies is an even grittier outing.

The ingredients of the band’s sound remain intact but stretch even further into experimental territory. What initially sounds like hardcore punk noise gives way to stretches of ambient textures or spare percussion and bass, more reminiscent of techno than anything. The album’s standout tracks make you feel like you’re headbanging in a post-apocalyptic Berlin techno bunker. Salmon of Knowledge and Laggard are two longer-form highlights, switching between blasts of brutal distortion and minimalist rhythms. Salmon of Knowledge is a tour de force, starting with an unnerving drum beat and then building gradually over a cacophonous soundscape of guitar drones, industrial whooshes and clanking percussion before gradually swallowing everything up in deep bassy grumble. Dara Kiely’s vocals are rabid and downright frightening. Laggard flips the script, starting loud with guitars ringing like alarm blasts. Frantic, looping drums drive the tune, before falling back as everything goes eerily quiet for the song’s latter half.

The band can carry a tune too, albeit a demented one. Going Norway is worthy single, Kiely’s strangely catchy vocal delivery recalling IDLES on crack. The album’s strongest track, Shoulderblades, is longer and heavier, but also built around a vocal part that’s memorable despite itself as Kiely plays with the idea of melody and tempo. His lyricism here is at its absurd best, in an album that doesn’t make for linear listening at the best of times (“Orange door hinge, temples grow tunnels / It’s too late, to be late”).

The album excels not in diversity or choice of instrumentation, but rather in balancing sound for maximum whallop. This is particularly evident here with some incredibly deep and heavy rhythm sections that will make you think your speakers are about to blow. Couch Combover is also masterful, ending in a numbing electronic loop over which Kiely chants ad nauseum until you start questioning your sanity.

The band excels at long-form pieces, which unfortunately makes the shorter cuts less interesting. These are intentionally short, experimental snippets. Akineton’s electronic screeching is engaging, but would’ve worked better in the context of a song. Amygdala has an interesting guitar sound and interlocking drum groove, but the screaming vocals wear a bit thin. And album closer Ereignis just feels like a snippet of a jam that didn’t fit anywhere else. We’re aware that the lads are talented, but they’d been better served to put these rhythms into a song.

Despite some inconsistencies, this is nevertheless a triumphant return to form for an uncompromising band. A prime pick for lovers of experimental rock and those who are looking to traumatise their neighbours.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

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