Dublin's Girl Band may owe something to early post-punk mavericks like The Pop Group and The Birthday Party but they sound like nothing else in music right now on their harrowing but blackly funny debut album

Is Girl Band’s debut album some kind of loud - very loud - obnoxious joke? The Dublin four piece are no fans of convention. Their sound is angular, atonal and harsh. Alan Duggan’s guitar strafes and howls, and the rhythm section of Daniel Fox and Adam Faulkner sounds by turns like a dying heartbeat or a military attack. Most challenging of all, oblique and bleak vocalist Dara Kiely sprays scatter shot nonsense verse all over the deranged sound collage. He sounds like he's singing his broken heart until the ventricles jangle.

It is the sound of full blown mental collapse (and eventual recovery) and it is like nothing else in music right now. Weirdest of all, Girl Band are very, very serious but very, very funny indeed and like some kind of maddening puzzle, Holding Hands with Jamie - a title that is both innocent and menacing - reveals its terrible beauty gradually, ineluctably and, despite the maelstrom of contrariness, majestically.

 

It starts with Umbongo and with the clank and whirr of factory line monotony before exploding into chaos - a glorious one-fingered salute to mass-produced homogenised music. The petulant vocals on Pears for Lunch accelerate into a frenzied state of nervous overdrive as guitars chainsaw around a lost and wounded Kiely. He makes the sullen and anti-rock declaration, “I look crap with my top off.” Later, he adds that he would “spend my time watching Top Gear with my trousers down”.

Baloo essentially sounds like two songs happening at once, the only thing keeping it together is the strange metallic bass sound that drives it ever forward. The near seven-minute psychodrama of Paul begins with looming bass strings, vibrating ominously like industrial cables, building to Kiely’s cathartic surrender. It is the most physical experience on an album full of physical experiences.

The relatively straightforward MBV guitar and bass rumble of In Plastic is followed by a one minute and 22 second slap in the face called The Last Riddler. It recalls The Pixies at their early blood-letting best. Kiely takes his cues from Black Francis as eruptive vocal tics and bug-eyed dementia holler down the studio. A similar early Pixie-ish wrongness informs the sparse sci-fi chill of Texting an Alien before ribbons of guitar beauty sneak under the industrial clang.

As you might expect from a song called Fucking Butter, the nonsense verse recalls The Sultans of Ping - at one point in this eight-minute firestorm, Kiely repeats the word “Nutella” - but the music is stunning, building from hyper tensile panic to catharsis over a monolithic bass line. Then it comes to a halt like a perpetual motion machine that’s finally given up.

It’s a fine place to end an album that has already left scorched earth and charred preconceptions in its wake but no, Girl Band sign off with a searing psychodrama called The Witch Dr in which Kiely sounds like he’s batting away a swarm of bees in a (new tall) collapsing building.

Somewhere in the eye of this hurricane of distortion, gleeful deconstruction, and calculated mischief, these mavericks locate aural pleasure zones and the shining heart of beauty every time. Girl Band kick against the pricks with a manic look in their eye.

Holding Hands With Jamie will leave you reeling, bruised and battered. Some joke.

Alan Corr

Girl Band play The Róisín Dubh, Galway (October 1); Dolan’s, Limerick (October 2); The Pavilion, Cork (October 3) and The Button Factory, Dublin (November 7)