This Girl Band article was written by Jessica Otterwell
From the opening chords, Girl Band’s debut full length, Holding Hands with Jamie, grabs you by the ears, kicks you in the Coachella and shakes you awake. Ireland have a slew of exciting bands emerging at the moment and Dublin’s Girl Band are no exception. That’s not to say they don’t wear their influences on their tattered sleeves, they do and they do it proudly almost. Yes, of course there are going to be many comparisons to a certain Seattle based band who spawned a whole movement, but then that’s not it. If that was all they had going for them, you might pass Girl Band off as flash in the pan, rip off band, like many before them.
What sets them apart is the depth in their influences, as a listener you know you’ve heard similar things before but it remains just out of reach, you can’t quite place it. Aside from the obvious, there’s dusting of Sonic Youth, a pinch of Pagoda, and then they start to search outside of the guitar band genre. Their earlier cover of ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’ and the fact that they put a fresh spin on a techno track sets them apart. The cover was a mind melting slice of insanity. It is this that should make any music fan wonder what Holding Hands with Jamie would sound like.
Holding Hands with Jamie opens with ‘Umbongo’, which weaves guitars reminiscent of ambulance sirens, machine gun clatter and squalling tyres. Then through the madness comes lead singer, Dara Keily’s louche vocals. The lyrics, though almost nonsensical at times, reveal a black humour. When describing an encounter with a pigeon, ‘He didn’t mind if he was a cannibal, simply just liked to eat animals’. It is as though a dystopian nightmare has begun.
Lead single ‘Pears For Lunch’ paints a desperate picture of someone at the end of his or her tether, wrapped in confusion. “I don’t know what she wants” screams the chorus. Except at this point, you wonder if the band even care. After all, they’ve previously divulged, “I look like crap with my top off” “covered in Sudocreme and talking to myself” recounts Keily, it’s a disturbing picture but it sets the tone for the entire album. This is an album dealing with total breakdown in the most honest way possible.
Holding Hands with Jamie is full of fury. It sounds as though the band have kidnapped Rowland S Howard and he’s hauled up in a garage, somewhere in a rain soaked Dublin with Girl Band holding Zippo lighters under his finger nails until he plays. As the album unfurls, it becomes clear that there is more than a debt owed to Howard’s work with ‘The Birthday Party’. Indeed it is certainly peppered with the same chaos and distortion. This is like a car crash that you gawp up, whilst asking serious questions about yourself. The basslines are shambolic and the drums thunder in a disorganised tumble. It works because this is a mind unravelling. The garage can’t contain them now, the lightbulbs are swinging and there’s blood on the walls.
‘Texting an Alien’ is a ballad; well it’s almost a ballad in the hands of Girl Band. With nonsense lyrics, “she’s suggesting texting an alien with fastest tongue in Ireland” that showcase a deteriorating mental state, coupled with the fragile and faltering guitar loop it’s a beautiful hiatus from the disorder. There aren’t many moments to pause and reflect on Holding Hands with Jamie; the sawing guitars and rasped, fraught vocals see to that. As a listener you don’t want to think but you’re there encased in a black, bleak moment.
What is present here is heart. The kind of despair that is on display here is blackened and broken, ensnaring people in it endlessly. Girl Band are climbing the walls and battering the door down to be released. This is particularly evident on the last song, ‘Witchdoctor’, “I’m wearing a woman’s jacket just to mirror you” the thick fog of depression and anger has engulfed. It’s heart breaking.
It’s hard not to be impressed by a debut of such depth, scope and beauty. No one can quite predict where Girl Band will go next and that is the main reason why they are so exciting. As a listener you remain on the edge of your seat, biting your fingernails, eyes wide for the next instalment. Wherever they go, you know Girl Band are delirious and they’re coming to get you whether you like it or not.
Holding Hands with Jamie is out now on Rough Trade