It’s becoming an all-too-rare thing to run into albums that take the raw material of rock music and assemble them into entirely new structures. You recognize where the pieces and ideas originated from, but you might never have dreamed of putting them together like that.
This wasn’t always the case with Girl Band. The Dublin quartet’s earliest material fell squarely in the world of noise punk, with the all-male band emphasizing ragged bluster and the teeth grinding noises that guitarist Alan Duggan and bassist Daniel Fox roughly unfurl from their amps and instruments.
Girl Band’s debut full-length Holding Hands With Jamie is nothing short of a monumental leap forward for the band. The nine tracks certainly share some DNA with the post-punk and experimental pioneers that helped clear the path for their righteous musical indignation. Angular cluster bombs like “Baloo” and “The Last Riddler” cop some of The Pop Group’s more agitated intentions, and the blistering track “Paul” is as driving and uncompromising as anything in Big Black’s catalog.
What distinguishes this work from the rest of the pack, and what distinguishes Jamie from any of Girl Band’s earlier releases, is an understanding of the power of tension. The goal of the majority of this album is to wind listeners into a frenzy but offer no release.
“Paul” is nothing more but Adam Faulkner’s insistent drum work shaded by a steady bass line and the shriek and scrape of a guitar. When the slow burning fuse finally sparks the explosion within the song, the rhythm disappears leaving dive bombing engine noise and piercing overtones to smolder your brain. By the time the drums kick back in, it’s less of a relief and more of an assault. Even the respite of a shuffling little number like “Texting an Alien” will still leave you rattled. After the nonstop barrage of the previous six tracks, you can’t get too comfortable lest you get blindsided by the group.
You should welcome this incursion on your senses and sensibilities. Far too many bands are offering up what they think we want to hear rather than trying to push the needle forward in any marked way. Girl Band’s latest is a startling upending of any and all expectations you would dare place upon a modern rock group.