Alex Nelson gives his verdict on Girl Band’s show at London’s 100 Club
“Four floppy haired Irish dudes walk into a bar…”
“Woah! I thought we weren’t doing stereotypically inaccurate jokes any more?”
“Ahh, but this is a good one… Four floppy haired Irish dudes walk into a bar. The barman says ‘boy band?’ and they say ‘no, Girl Band’! They then proceed to kick his teeth down his throat and raid his record collection for obscure techno mixes, which they then replicate with guitar pedals.”
“I don’t get it.”
You might not, but the 350 or so packed into London’s 100 Club certainly do.
Indeed, Girl Band’s avant-garde noise turbulence is the kind of thing usually reserved for the chin-stroking nether-pages of publications like The Wire. But somehow (most likely through their early EPs’ straighter, grungier origins) they’re attracting interest throughout the music press.
Perhaps it’s because where most noise-rock bands would rather spend their time adding false meaning to their songs while fawning over custom made pedals, Girl Band prefer to just get on with it.
Launching straight into the opener from recently released debut album Holding Hands With Jamie, ‘Umbongo’ is an explosive start as pounding drums struggle to contain screeching bursts of guitar noise.
We’re treated to most of the LP, as well as pre-album favourites like the rhythmic white noise of ‘De Bom Bom’ and the glitchy, uncontrolled bass of ‘Lawman’.
While Dara Kiely’s vocals about chocolate spread (‘Fucking Butter’) and cats doing their business in his neighbour’s garden (‘Baloo’) threaten to derail the otherwise serious bombardment with their throwaway nature, they at least allow a wry, tongue-in-cheek focal point for new fans to get behind.
It’d be pretty safe to say no instrument is played in a traditional manner tonight – chords and bass licks shunned in favour of guitar pedal manipulation – and with the whirling dervish of noise emanating from Alan Duggan’s amp, you’d expect some kind of manic handiwork from the guitarist.
But not so, and as he coaxes all manner of wonderfully gruff sounds from his instrument completely unfazed, we’d love to get an inside scoop of just what kind of guitar pedal witchcraft he’s working.
Whether the chattering pile-driver intro of ‘Pears for Lunch’, or the ghostly feedback echoes of the waltz-time ‘In Plastic’, structure is crafted from chaotic noise in a manner unseen since Sonic Youth’s 1992 album Dirty.
Kiely also spends most of tonight’s show thrashing around the stage with an intense energy he’s not usually known for, despite falling foul to a “small kerb” a couple of weeks back and tearing the tendons in his ankle. Dave who?
It all leads to a totally visceral performance which makes quite an impact, and as we walk the London streets to our hotel, determining between the city’s sounds and the maelstrom ringing in our ears becomes a challenge.
The sound of rolling tube carriages underfoot, or the white noise assault of ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’
We’d happily live with tinnitus if it sounded like the latter.