2018 was quite the year, wasn’t it? The #MeToo movement swept across the globe, providing some lecherous criminals with a long-overdue reckoning; Meghan Markle became the first Person Of Colour to ever have their Royal Wedding broadcast live on the BBC; Black Panther was released to universal acclaim (and to eyepopping box office receipts); and we saw the release of debut albums from incredible artists – Shame, Snail Mail, Cardi B, Jorja Smith, Soccer Mommy and, most pertinently, Goat Girl. Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? A whole lifetime ago since the album Goat Girl was played on Iggy Confidential (he’s a big fan). It was, and remains, a fantastic work, and testament to the year of its release – full of vitality and energy and anger and spit and venom.
Fast forward to 2021 and Goat Girl have returned, with a new bassist. Despite some bumps in the road, the awesome foursome (Lottie Pendlebury on vocals and guitar, Ellie Davis on guitar and occasional vocals, Rosy Jones on drums and Hollie Mullineaux on bass) have thrown their collective hat in the ring for album of the year in a month that’s already seen candidates from Sleaford Mods, Viagra Boys, Shame and Palberta. And the most remarkable thing about this return is that it nearly didn’t happen. During the early stages of production, at the start of 2020, Ellie went through chemotherapy for Hodgkin lymphoma, which she thankfully survived. Regrouping with the band, and returning producer Dan Carey, the sessions were then disrupted by the whole pandemic situation.
Not that you’d know; the album is more streamlined, varied and experimental than its elder sister, and it showcases the band’s talents on a much wider scale. Opener Pest is hushed, and coos softly like Pixies, if they filled the background of their sound with bubbling electronics. Badibaba opts for a more noticeable ‘indie’ approach, with a throbbing bass line and disco shuffle drums. Much like David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging, Badibaba feels loose and supple because the band swapped instruments for the recording, with Holly moving to drums, Rosie to guitar and Ellie to bass (Lottie stayed with her guitar).
Jazz (In The Supermarket) takes us on a magical mystery tour of alternating tempos and flavours, with viola and trumpet daubed across the track like paint on a canvas, while Once Again provides a solid hit of prime-era Siouxsie & The Banshees. P.T.S. Tea recounts the tale of the time Goat Girl had to cancel shows because Rosie was burned by a stranger’s scalding beverage. He didn’t even apologise, either. Sad Cowboy, written around a guitar riff Lottie recorded on her phone, has the kind of forward momentum you might expect from Stereolab or even Harmonia.
Across the second half of the album, the band shape-shift with each passing tune. The Crack is a tour de force, a classy demonstration of restrained fury. The steady cocktail-goth of Closing In is refreshing, while Anxiety Feels is anything but. Both are highlights. Where Do We Go From Here? and A-Men close the album out in a kind of narcotic smog.
This is a good, and sometimes great album, that feels like it’s a few tracks short of being a masterpiece. The band simply spend too much time making beautifully poised indie rock without a hint of menace (remember how sinister Warpaint‘s second record was?), and they sometimes miss the flippant rage they harnessed so wonderfully on their debut. That said, the more you listen to On All Fours, the better it gets, and each track begins to become clearer with each play. In 2021, after the year we’ve just had, that’s more than enough.