Girl Band – The Talkies

For regulars at the altar of Girl Band, it's as explosive and dynamic as they've ever been.
Label: Rough Trade
Released: 27th September 2019
Rating: ★★★★

With their second record beginning with an almost two-minute track of agitated breathing, frontman Dara Kiely isn’t concerned whether you ‘get’ Girl Band or not. Like all their previous records, ‘The Talkies’ is a form of therapy. A way to process the world through sounds. Unsteady yet melodic. An attempt to connect the senses to the brain in the fastest way possible.

Continually flicking between loud and quiet, twisting and turning words to create new sounds, elongating the familiar into something unusual. It all makes for a record that’s as unsettling as it is funny. Hearing Kiely build a song full of palindromes then calling it ‘Aibohphobia’ (the phobia of palindromes; itself a palindrome) is darkly comic. As is him telling the Irish mythological creature The Salmon of Knowledge that it knows “fuck all” on the track of the same name.

He uses Gaelic and English in the same sentence, testing the limits of language and pronunciation until the lyrics serve more as sounds than things with meaning. It’s difficult to even put meaning to the lyrics, as Kiely sings of “Lisping wasps / Jaap Staam-mering thoughts / Arse fell out arse ways” (‘Laggard’). What meaning you attach to them is mostly your own, if you even find any, because it’s what noise they create that’s more important to the overall texture of these songs.

Like with some of Martian Hannett’s more unusual recording techniques, including forcing Joy Division’s Stephen Morris to play drums on the roof of a flat, Girl Band have explored the very outer edges of production. You’ll be hard pushed to find a record that sounds like ‘The Talkies’.

The screeching see-saw guitars and ominous rumbles that sound like someone hitting an angry wasp’s nest of ‘Shoulderblades’. The melodic amp static of ‘Caveat’. The otherworldly drones of ‘Salmon of Knowledge’. It’s so distinctly Girl Band, and surprisingly does it without treading the same ground as ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’ did.

Of course, it’s not a record that you’d put on to unwind and often so opaque that, even for fans of Girl Band, it could be a testing experience if you’re not in the right mood. But it’s endlessly fascinating watching these four musicians continuously push the limit of sound with an energy and impulse not often seen or heard.

For those who were not sold by ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’, or any of the preceding EPs, ‘The Talkies’ isn’t going to change your mind on Girl Band. But for regulars at the altar of Girl Band, it’s as explosive and dynamic as they’ve ever been. A surreal view of the world around us through Kiely’s eyes that’s at once terrifying and exhilarating. ‘The Talkies’ is a rush of a record that actively fights against explanation, and it’s all the more thrilling because of it.

Chris Taylor

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