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Girl Band – ‘The Talkies’ review: wild experimentation borne of self-imposed limitations

Written entirely in one key and containing no pronouns, the Irish noise-rock band's comeback album finds them on singular, sensational form

The fact that Girl Band’s second album exists at all is something of a surprise. Having cancelled their planned tour midway through 2017 owing to ongoing health issues, the band disappeared off the map for two years, with many assuming that their delirious, fantastic debut album ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’ would remain their one and only full-length.

The first year of this 24 months away didn’t see the band play in the same room at all, but the second saw them craft new album ‘The Talkies’ in secret, a second effort that cements the Dublin quartet as the most exciting noise rock band around.

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Every element of ‘The Talkies’ sees the band pushing themselves forwards and marking themselves out as one-of-a-kind. The darkness and intensity of their health struggles and fraught life on tour opens the album, with introduction ‘Prolix’ a recording of vocalist Dara Kiely practicing breathing techniques into a microphone while mid-panic attack. What follows is a 45-minute exorcism.

Both lyrically and musically, ‘The Talkies’ sees Girl Band attempting things that most wouldn’t even consider, while managing to fit together into a cohesive whole; this is more than experimentation for experimentation’s sake. Kiely opted to not use any pronouns across the entire record. It was partly to avoid falling into well-travelled cliches, but it also just seems like the four-piece can’t resist challenging themselves to their absolute limits. It’s probably why their voices and instruments sound inches away from combusting throughout the record. ‘The Talkies’ sits on the edge of madness and sounds truly apocalyptic.

Musically, the whole record revolves around the key of A. Thought a somewhat dull technicality on the face of it, it helps channel all this wild experimentation into songs that come together as more than a mush of noise, and gives ‘The Talkies’ structure, even on ‘Aibohphobia’, a song composed entirely of palindromes, both lyrically and musically. “Do Geese see God? Party Booby Trap. Top Spot to Idiot,” Kiely yelps above a swirling instrumental that’s been recorded forwards, then reversed, then played forwards again. It’s a mind-bending concept, and reflects Girl Band perfectly as a whole.

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It’s rare you see an album that packs such fresh musical experimentation, sounds so singular and yet has the self-awareness and lightheartedness to name. There’s a track called ‘Salmon Of Knowledge’, which includes the lyrics “Barbie and Ken on a barbed wire fence” and “Feel like a chicken / Act like a cock”. Weirder, funnier and fiercer than ever, Girl Band return as heroes of the weirder corner of rock music, and they’ve outdone themselves this time.

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Details

  • Release date: September 29
  • Record label: Rough Trade

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