LIVE REVIEW: Girl Band @ Baby’s All Right


I’ve recommended Girl Band to a few people who were skeptical before they even listened – because of their name. I understand, because I felt that way too. According to an interview with the Quietus, that’s intentional, as they admitted “it’s a stupid name” they came up with to annoy someone at a bar. There are some other implications the name applies, whether those are intentional or not. like, is four dudes calling themselves Girl Band an attempt at self-deprecation, a compliment to the female sex, or a statement on how gender can define a band? But their debut album Holding Hands With Jamie washed all those thoughts away in a wave of noise, and it no longer bothered me.

The only things that worried me before their show last Thursday at Baby’s All Right were if their live show would be comparable to the amazing chaos of their album (especially after they had to cancel their previously scheduled Brooklyn shows due to health issues), and that I had decided that the sold-out crowd was going to be one giant mosh pit.

I was wrong; most people stood totally still, fixated on what was happening onstage. “Ooh, I think this is what they call a noise band,” someone behind me said a few songs into the set. And yeah, that’s a good place to start if you’re trying to describe Girl Band. They are definitely noisy, Alan Duggan’s guitar sounds like a machine, and some songs like a musical car crash. For most of the show Duggan and bassist Daniel Fox were just two bowed heads of messy hair, elbows moving mechanically, while singer Dara Kiely kept his head upwards, directing his tortured lyrics in the form of shouts and howls towards the ceiling above him. In the middle of it all, drummer Adam Faulkner looked oddly serene. Though they’re intense, there’s a sense of humor buried under their music. This is especially apparent in their cover of “Why They Hide My Bodies Under My Garage,” which is basically its own genre of scary dance music. The only lyrics are the title of the song, repeated endlessly over an increasingly frantic techno beat until they lose all meaning. 

Holding Hands With Jamie is based on a psychotic episode Kiely went through, which is bold enough as the subject matter of an album, but something else entirely when they sing about it in front of you. It’s almost shocking to see someone bare their feelings like he does, briefly embodying insanity without totally becoming consumed by it. For a weirdo like me, watching Kiely dance around the edge of the abyss, looking in, and then reporting back on what he found was one of the best performances I’ve even seen from a frontman. I just wonder how he does it night after night.

Read our review of Holding Hands With Jamie here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Girl Band “Holding Hands With Jamie”


Holding Hands With Jamie by Girl Band is a beautiful mess, more musical noise than noisy music. Guitars squeal like pieces of metal screeching together in a car crash, the bass rolls up and down the fretboard wildly, and as well as some brief singing, vocals come in the form of screams, growls, shouts and intense monologues. There is structure, but it’s threatening to disintegrate at any moment. You’ll think you’ve identified a melody, only for it to come crashing down.

Whether singer Dara Kiely is remembering an encounter with a doctor who likes Abba on “The Last Riddler,” being honest about his vanity by drawling “I look crap with my top off” on “Pears For Lunch,” or vocalizing about something that isn’t quite intelligible but can be understood viscerally, every song on Holding Hands With Jamie is as riveting as it is challenging to listen to. However, the album’s standout track, possibly because of its weird, sad, disturbing and amazing video, is “Paul.” It starts with an ominous, surf-y bass line and relentlessly simple drums. Kiely seems to be talking himself in circles as the track builds and builds, until it can’t anymore and just explodes into the noise and feedback that’s been crackling in the background (As for the plot of the video, it’s better to just watch it than read about it).

If it sounds like the Irish rockers are on the verge of completely losing it at any moment, it’s on purpose. The album takes on an important context when you learn that it was inspired by the time leading up to a psychotic episode Kiely went through two years ago. Listening to Holding Hands With Jamie definitely feels like taking a break from reality, but Kiely remains in control the whole time. He’s admitted his inspiration for the album in interviews, so he’s obviously not ashamed of his past struggles, but he’s gone a step further by taking control of them, reframing them and sharing them on his own terms. The result can only be described as cathartic. And awesome. And noisy.

Holding Hands With Jamie is available now via Rough Trade; check out “Paul” below.


ALBUM REVIEW: “Surrender To The Fantasy”

MagikMarkers_byArt-Utility5Magik Markers’ career began with an impressively long and prolific streak, with almost forty releases since their 2002 debut Beep Beep. February 2010’s Volodor Dance, though, was followed up by nearly four years of (no pun intended) radio silence. The band’s lyrics, album titles, and even the name Magik Markers evoke a fun, whimsical refusal to grow up (to say nothing of founding member Leah Quimby’s decision to leave the band and pursue a career in ventriloquism in 2006) but it appears that the break in Magik Markers recording stretch came about partially due to an onslaught of adult realities. The band’s three members scattered, geographically speaking, and members Pete Nolan and John Shaw had children.

In spite of, or more likely because of, the changes that the band has undergone (since their last release), the November 2013 album, Surrender To The Fantasy, is a lavish love letter to the teenage rock and roll dream. Liberated, context-less noise rock, thoroughly distorted and by turns joyous and disillusioned, Surrender sounds like it’s being performed underground, which in fact it was. Much of the recording took place in the basement of guitarist Elisa Ambrogio’s father’s house, returning the band to to the hard, unadorned sound of its earliest efforts. There’s a vulnerability to that unadornedness, courtesy of Ambrogio’s sweetly dissonant voice, which transports standout tracks like “Bonfire” and “Mirrorless” back in time to seventies-era rock recordings.

I wouldn’t call Surrender a nostalgic album, more of an attempt to get back to basics. Tracks that would otherwise be straight noise rock are informed by a droning, generous pace—almost every song breaks the five minute mark—but do away with the flinching self-reflection that often comes along with the introspection and spaciness applied to this record. The last track, “WT” (standing for “White Trash,” presumably) features refreshingly snotty vocals over clanging guitar riffs that aren’t afraid to be ugly, and that zero-fucks-given attitude serves the band well over the course of the album.

Surrender To The Fantasy comes out tomorrow on Drag City in the form of an (imitation) SOLID GOLD USB DRIVE! In the meantime, watch the video for “Mirrorless” here, via Youtube:

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