Girl Band

The Talkies

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More than just an Irish noise rock group, Girl Band are a state of mind. As pretentious as that sounds, both their approach to songwriting and their lyrical subject matter reflect the struggle between order and chaos found in conflicted thinking. The claustrophobia of crushing sounds contrasted with brief moments of reprieve make for a strong representation of a brain at war with itself. On their second record, they've created tension between innovative and carefully crafted songwriting and the stream-of-consciousness screams of frontman Dara Kiely. The rhythm section is so tight it imposes order -- often with new and interesting angles -- onto the unhinged guitar and vocal work, but they strike the balance perfectly so as to not let one side or the other dictate proceedings. As evidenced by the recording process, which was more meticulous than it might first seem; they wrote songs in pieces, re-jiggered them with a little computer wizardry, and then relearned the contorted results, also utilizing the recording space -- in this case, Ballintubbert House -- to affect specific sonics, such as recording drums twice, once in the basement and once in the stairwell.

The allusion to mental health is made explicit on opener "Prolix," as a pulsing synth rests beneath Kiely's erratic breathing; this is mirrored in the closer "Ereignis," although in this case the breathing is controlled and calm, framing the album as a protracted panic attack. Every song in between is as loud and abrasive as expected and prone to abrupt changes, like "Going Norway" and "Shoulderblades," which encapsulate the peaks and troughs found throughout The Talkies. Despite adhering to an overall concept, the band manage to squeeze in numerous smaller concepts, with the most prominent being "Aibohphobia"; the term used for a fear of palindromes, ironically being a palindrome itself. They reversed the initial recording of the track before learning the track in reversed form to re-record it, and to top it all off, Kiely sings exclusively in palindromes. Girl Band have a track record for blurring the line between noise rock and techno, clearly heard on their infamous cover of Blawan's "Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage," but here they have incorporated those elements into original compositions; firstly, on the short electronic freakout of "Akineton," and more overtly on penultimate track "Prefab Castle," which threatens to go full Jon Hopkins by its second half.

Tackling mental health through music is no easy task, yet Girl Band depict the more unhinged side of it accurately. Kiely himself has dealt with numerous issues -- most are well-documented in interviews -- even leading to the cancellation of their last tour, an event which many believed Girl Band would not come back from. By choosing to take on the subject head-on, they've crafted an album which is half-noise rock record and half-audio representation of Kiely's mind. While it may be a struggle to listen to for anyone caught unaware, it's that same struggle that makes their output so captivating as an experience.

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