Young Irish quartet Girl Band are, to put it bluntly, noisy little buggers. With their raucous noise-rock registering a decibel level that’s probably going to shatter all remaining life from your grandparents’ ears (no hearing aids required here, Gramps), you need to approach this lot with extreme caution.
But they’re somewhat of a misleading lot too. They’re not even girls for a start, the cheeky young tricksters. And take the album title for example, Holding Hands With Jamie (the Jamie in question being a school friend of singer Dara Kiely and guitarist Daniel Fox, who worked on all their records). A cutesy, over-friendly and nice name like this conjures up images of happy, smiling summer-loving flower power pacifists skipping gaily through fields of barley, no doubt. And just about the complete opposite to what’s on offer on this, their self-produced debut offering.
Despite his age, Kiely has already had some traumatic troubles in his short life, having suffered heavily from depression. Following a relationship break-up that resulted in a year out of college, more than a hint of lunacy ensued, with actions such as permanently moving into a tent in the garden and refusing to leave being one bizarre position he found himself in.
It was this ‘spell on the sidelines’ that is relived for the most part of Holding Hands With Jamie, panning out like a tour of Kiely’s journey through the depressive state he had found himself languishing within, but the song titles give nothing away, continuing along the – probably unintentional – misleading theme. Album opener Umbongo is weirdly nothing to do with the juice found way down deep within the jungle, but in fact a track that crashes into earshot like a stuttering, misfiring motorbike that reflects when Kiely first had a meltdown, being unable to function properly as a result. The pummelling drums and screeching guitars hide an ever so feint guitar melody that is all but lost behind the cacophonous noise.
Baloo might hint at being a big cuddly bear from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book but it’s about as cuddly as a tyrannosaurus rex, being another manic episode that reflects someone going completely bonkers, their warped-like mind on the verge of capitulating completely. Single Paul isn’t about an obnoxious wisecracking alien either, but it actually represents a slightly more controlled chaos that boasts intriguing percussion and monstrous guitar noise like a starter engine, coupled with tortured vocals. There is much potential evident here as once the noise factor disperses for just an instant, ears are likely to prick up in much anticipation of future things.
Ironically, Texting An Alien then pops up; a slower, moodier effort with much less noise and a more relaxed feel where Kiely claims “I don’t know why I’m doing it to be honest” amongst other nonchalant, throwaway everyday conversation type lyricism. The freakily named Fucking Butter takes its name from another meaningless comment but it’s not a description of what the boys like to get up to when alone (perhaps). In all honesty, it should have been called Fucking Razor Blades or Fucking Shark Mouths to be honest, such is its raucous, spiky barbed wire like presence. Another single Pears For Lunch is possibly the album’s finest moment, “I look crap with my top off”, bemoans Kiely during a slacker-rock vocal performance set to a pumping bassline and other bludgeoning instrumentation. The mental torment is evident with lines like “I don’t know what she wants” yelled in frustration and torture.
Girl Band possess enormous potential and big, big things look to be lying just around the corner for the Dubliners. Whilst this often only remains as potential for this first step, Holding Hands With Jamie is a refreshing change and welcome one-fingered salute to the mundane and safe rock music of today. Just don’t play it to your grandparents, or parents for that matter – it’s the perfect way to send them frantic, and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.