Goat Girl – Corsica Studios, London, UK (13th November 2017)

Another sold-out gig for the exceptional Goat Girl shows the art-rock post-cowpunk band in a new light. A fresh approach sees them thinking through an increasingly rounded live experience, making their sound less skeletal than at shows earlier this year, but still dark and stark. They add a taped intro of electronic beats and keyboards and later, half way through the set, they end ‘I Don’t Care’ with another recording — of speaking voices and found sounds — to take them into ‘Crow Cries’, before a reprise of ‘I Don’t Care’.

They even cover a musical theatre song from ‘Bugsy Malone’ and reveal some folky influences. The most notable late 2017 change for Goat Girl is the addition of a fifth member, the fiddle fighter, Fiffy. Early on in the set, her lovely violin fills in the spaces in ‘Creep’ and ‘Slowly Reclines’ while, later on, she adds tambourine to the pounding percussion of drummer Rosy ‘Bones’ Jones, whose kit tonight is strung with appropriately osteo-themed decorations. 

Further filling in the gaps is more vocal co-ordination than before by front person Clottie Cream (aka Lottie Pendlebury), guitarist LED (aka Ellie Davies) and bassist Naima ‘Jelly’ Zeit. They harmonise beautifully on sad song ‘Slowly Reclines’, where they add a “nah nah nah, nah” melody to the fiddling by Fiffy and to Ellie’s twangy tremolo guitar.

Fiffy’s violin adds atmosphere to the slow build-up on opener ‘Burn The Stake’, then reinforces Rosy’s emphatic flamenco-rock drumming during the discordant choruses, with backing vocals from Ellie and Naima. After its sudden end, Lottie fiddles with her long cape (soon disposed of) and notes that the stage is so high she can only see the heads of the crowd in front of her underneath the Corsica’s lofty railway arches — very different from The Windmill in Brixton, their home from home, where the stage is low and tucked into a tight-ceilinged corner. A mirrored G logo painted on a sheet hangs behind the band.

Attacking drums from Rosy define large parts of ‘Viperfish’, subtly underpinned by Naima’s bass and repetitive deadpan singing from the whole front four, intercut with swaying guitar by Ellie and Lottie that builds and swings. Rosy’s drums crack and drive as catchy new single ‘Cracker Drool’ springs to life, voices in harmony and Lottie strumming while Ellie picks out melodies and Naima’s bouncing bass bangs out magical Mexican country cowpunk rhythms, prompting dancing at the front until the tune winds down very slowly to its end. 

Goat Girl perfectly execute slow-fast on the deviant genius of ‘No Heart’, a tortured carousel riff in the style of Freddie Phillips (‘Camberwick Green’/‘Trumpton’) that erupts into breakneck drumming. Guitars weave a web on the slow and intricate, writhing beat of ‘I Don’t Care’, augmented by violin, and Lottie’s usually understated voice gets louder. When the song repeats after the multi-paced, spaghetti western, reverb drama of ‘Crow Cries’, Lottie ends it with a big, bold big guitar riff. 

After a bass intro from Naima, the band’s folky, acoustic origins are betrayed by the gentle melody of ‘Throw me a Bone’, Lottie singing “take me home, then you’ll end up alone” with Naima and Ellie amid panoramic guitars, rolling syncopated drums and droning violin. As the song shows, despite its brevity, Goat Girl can paint a big canvass, but they also excel when racing through mosh-friendly post-The Fall ‘psykick dance hall’ hits like a joyful ‘The Man’ and angry ‘Scum’.

After Fiffy’s violin break, ’Mighty Despair’ builds well before the band tackle a ‘Bugsy Malone’ song by Paul Williams, unexpectedly harnessing the defiant and jazzy ‘Tomorrow’ to their warped country and western psych beat: “I won’t take no for an answer, I was born to be a dancer”. It’s a sleazy prelude to fan favourite ‘Country Sleaze’, Naima riffing on the bass, Lottie strumming and singing strongly while Ellie picks out the tune. The song is a barely disguised tribute to a key influence: Ben Wallers (aka The Rebel) and his post-rock group Country Teasers

At just under 40 minutes for 15 songs, Goat Girl tracks almost all clock in at under 3 minutes, making their gigs short, sharp shocks of off-kilter, darkly fizzing country-punk. So many Goat Girl gigs are selling out that it may be easier to catch them at one of their support slots — they play with Marika Hackman on 23rd November at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and with Baxter Dury at Koko on 29th November.

Goat Girl at Corsica Studios played:
(Intro tape)
Burn The Stake
Cracker Drool
Slowly Reclines
No Heart
I Don’t Care
Crow Cries
I Don’t Care (Reprise)
Throw Me a Bone
The Man
Mighty Despair
Tomorrow (by Paul Williams from ‘Bugsy Malone’)
Country Sleaze