They were to attack Dublin’s Button Factory this Saturday night but have cancelled the rest of their tour. Sooo… thought I might repost a recent review I did for State.ie of Girl Band’s unforgettable debut LP Holding Hands With Jamie.
Having a song called ‘Heckle The Frames’ might be an indication of Girl Band’s attitude to “serious music”. Similarly, when you manage to piece apart the frantic yelps and adolescent wails of frontman Dara Kiely you might register mentions of Nutella, corn on the cob and garlic cheese chips. “Kids today,” you might harrumph, but why then do these nine songs from the Rough Trade ruffians feel like the one of the most straight-talking and expertly measured rock debuts in recent memory?
Controlled chaos defines Girl Band’s oeuvre. Take ‘Pears For Lunch’, which chips and taps with post-punk drill bits before pushing you down a pit filled with staccato guitar lacerations and brain-jamming bass pecks. Album opener ‘Umbongo’ is a straight-up aural mugging, a vicious industrial acid test for scenesters thinking the Dublin quartet could be their latest trendy Spotify search. “Survive this, and you can stay,” it screams. ‘In Plastic’ pulls a neat trick of a doo-wop rhythm and nightmarish guitar discord from Alex Duggan, as if some grand malignancy is being kept at bay via incantation. Brilliant bassist Daniel Fox slides around woozily on the primal pummel of Adam Faulkner on ‘Paul’, lurching towards a death disco riot that would send The Horrors scarpering for cover.
And then there’s Kiely. On the near eight-minute litany of outbursts that comprise ‘Fucking Butter’, the vocalist flits between an array of settings; a white-noise scream; a giddy, spit-flecked yelp; a slack background rant like a regretful reveller ejected from a Minor Threat gig for slam-dancing. He’s free associating at breakneck speed as ‘The Witch Doctor’ hurtles this astonishing album towards the cliff-edge. He might just be serious so seat-belts are advised.
They’ve topped the charts, announced an Academy date and are resulting in a few more guitars going in the bin. From a couple of weeks back, this is my State.ie review. I called it first!
WHEN it emerged that it only took two people to be as loud as war – see Jack and Meg White, Death From Above 1979 and The Black Keys – the suspicion was that riff-happy duos would start popping up all over the landscape, but this has not been the case. It appears that while three-pieces require a cut above in terms of ability, duos must be of a different category of multitasking altogether to get the same rock results as more crowded outfits.
So with the above acts either disbanded, reformed or stuck in a holding pattern, the arrival of Royal Blood is timely. The Brighton combo of bassist/singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher here blast out a riff manifesto on their debut of the like not seen since long before Queens of the Stone Age began needing Elton John to make records.
Kerr dashes about the fret and pedal boards to make something as mundane as a guitar a superfluous idea. From the opening bars of ‘Out Of The Black’, the riffs, each elastic, bludgeoning and smart, hammer forth. Scuzzed-up, megaphone vocals hitch a ride on pulsating, buzzsaw basslines on slick single ‘Figure It Out’ before breaking into an outro rampage. ‘You Can Be So Cruel’ is a more glam cousin of Queens’ ‘Do It Again’, while ‘Blood Hands’ slows things to a hard, bluesy lurch. Only half of ‘Little Monster’’s title is accurate.
The playing is imperious. Overdubs aside, Kerr’s bass, like Jesse F Keeler before him, does the work of three men, and in Thatcher, a new granite-hard percussion talent is revealed. But a key ingredient is that vocal; like a battle-hardened Dan Auerbach or an Anglian Tim Vanhammel, Kerr – an admitted Jeff Buckley disciple – brings vital contrast to the sonic testosterone with wild, huffing yelps, melody and perk. There’s a fair whiff of adolescence about it all, but if Royal Blood stick around and their sound calcifies with age, you can imagine a whole generation pairing up and ditching six strings for four.