Girl Band: “The Talkies” Review

Author: Daniel Palmeter

Album Rating:

Girl Band has a reputation for creating noisy music. That may even be an understatement. Their 2014 release Holding Hands With Jamie was received as a hallmark in the development of noise rock. And after four years of silence, Girl Band returns with an album more visceral than ever.

The Talkies begins with “Prolix,” a track with a lack of discernible instrumentation, opting instead for a simple drone and the accelerating pace of frontman Dara Kiely’s breathing. This track documents a real panic attack Kiely experienced in-studio, and sets an eerie tone for his outbursts and vocal freakouts that follow in the remaining portion of the album. Mental health struggles are nothing new for Kiely, whose problems with anxiety and psychosis have both inspired and halted the progress of his music. Their previous album, Holding Hands with Jamie, found its roots in a psychotic episode Kiely experienced which necessitated he take a year off school to rehabilitate. His struggles with mental health were also the catalyst for the hiatus which preceded The Talkies, yet each time Kiely returns he’s full of fresh ideas—new ways to express his sense of panic, anger, and dread.

On this record, Girl Band’s instrumentalists resemble even less of traditional rock musicians than ever. Alan Duggan’s guitar is so muddled with effects and noise that even the most seasoned of guitarists would struggle to visualise what is being played. Adam Faulker drums in an equally idiosyncratic way, laying down simple grooves, often on just the low tom or the rim of a drum, only to explode into harsh, cymbal-heavy cacophonies. The only constant on this album is the bass playing of Daniel Fox, and even he plays only queasy, dense tones in an extremely low register. Lyrically, Dara Kiely follows the precedent of grotesque and frequently nonsensical imagery that characterized the previous Girl Band releases. “Couch Combover” depicts public masturbation in a Hot Topic, “Aibohphobia” consists only of palindromes and “Amygdala” doesn’t even contain lyrics, only incoherent muttering and bursts of shouting.

At forty-five minutes in length, The Talkies is a noise rocker’s perfect storm, and even its quieter moments, such as the end of “Caveat,” serve only as nervous tension through which the band explodes into pure energy. One thing’s for sure: listening to this album will provide a sense of chaos that will entice some and dissuade others.