Girl Band were previously tipped for greatness this year by our team, being described as “the most exciting outfit to emerge from the Dublin scene”. At time of writing, the four-piece were in the process of putting together their highly-anticipated album ‘Holding Hands with Jamie’. The question remains then of whether this album lived up to expectations, whether the spark that forces one to take notice of Girl Band ignited into a glorious inferno.
The answer, as it transpires, is an emphatic yes – ‘Holding Hands with Jamie’ is a well-crafted and explosive debut. With visceral, borderline incoherent lyrics, slurring vocals and inimitable inhuman screeching sounds coaxed out of instruments with hubcaps and Gaviscon bottles, this album powerfully details the rise and fall of a tortured soul, the soundtrack of a mind coming apart in meaty, bloody tendrils.
Umbongo, which kicks off the whole affair, is unabashedly furious manic-and-panicked electro. The lyrics are sparse, with the guitars shrieking and screaming enough to effectively convey the cataclysmic emotionality on their own. This is followed by Pears For Lunch, for which the band – in collaboration with filmmaker Bob Gallagher – have released a balls-to-the-wall surreal video.
Girl Band music videos are, at this stage, essential viewing, with the videos for Paul and Pears For Lunch both seemingly set in the same absurd, grotesque hellscape which complements the album in the most satisfying and delicious way. One could even go so far as to say that the creative marriage of Girl Band and Gallagher is the most wonderfully horrific union since Divine met John Waters.
The Last Riddler is brief and affecting, with the lyrics “Dara take a seat/No I think I’ll stand/Doctor quick question/What’s your favourite band?” perfectly expressing a fruitless attempt to reach someone so enveloped in the throes of their own madness that they’re only capable of responding with a defiant spit at therapeutic convention.
Fucking Butter almost demands mention, if anything for the repetition of the words “petit pois”, with its slightly misplaced emphasis and drawn out vowel sounds (“petit pooooois”). Kiely – with his trademark slurring and deranged vocals which engenders images of him singing in a food-stained, fabric-pulled bathrobe with a vice-like grip on a bottle of whiskey – says the words so many times that they nearly lose all meaning, with the apian drone of the bass only adding to the disorientation.
The use of the mundane vernacular in this track and throughout – with references to going to the shop, throwing biscuits down O’Connell Street, Nutella, Top Gear and pear cider adverts – if anything just makes the whole thing seem more bizarre, more disturbing when paired with the frantic pace and overwrought melodies which inject the normal with frighteningly dark elements.
The album ends with Witch Doctor, an unrelentingly fast denouement with near indecipherable lyrics and guitars that seem to be channelling animal-esque roars and bellows. It all ends in a blaze of glory with guitar fuzz and flat out possibly-sampled-from-a-snuff-film level screaming from Kiely, before an abrupt hiccup into a brief silence which provides the listener with a few seconds to breathe and attempt to process the beautiful clusterfuck of sound they’ve just heard.
‘Holding Hands with Jamie’ – like the band who produced it – is in your face and unapologetic, almost threateningly good and augurs well for the band’s future output. It’s an album that you simply need to hear.