The tyranny of genre-tagging stuffs Girl Band in a pigeonhole of 'noise rock'. The Talkies and its predecessor Holding Hands With Jamie are both, yes, noisy. But they're erratic and amorphous too, and draw in so many mismatched influences you'd get arthritis listing them out. Somehow, The Talkies transcends these influences. The tried-and-tested music pundit schtick (it's x meets y, but on crack/acid/speed) is left thumb-twiddling. If Pete Townsend is to be believed, and originality is now impossible, Girl Band fake it like no one else.
Performances across the board deploy force with admirable control. The album is substantive and restrained — more so than it first appears. Songs' form often assumes a slow build. Tension increases and sustains to a point of cacophonous release. This may happen a few too many times, but it more often gives the material legs than functioning as a crutch.
And deviations from this form are heightened by their brevity and scarcity. The album's few noodling act breaks entertain without disrupting its thudding momentum.
Now for the elephant in the room. Girl Band return, revived, after an extended period of inactivity. Poor health has prohibited gigging, postponed studio recording, and given rise to legends and infamy that dog frontman Dara Kiely. There is something worth remembering, particularly in the months following Daniel Johnston's death. Suffering obstructs the creation of art. Suffering paralyses the artist.
Some corners host a sociopathic misconception: outsider artists must suffer. When a band occupies discomforting spaces, we should not get the popcorn in for its self-annihilation. 'Could Kiely be this decade's Richey Edwards? Is he troubled enough?' This amounts to nothing but a cynical, indie-rock cover of paps snapping Britney's slaphead. But the joke's on the journos — The Talkies is the sound of a boundary-busting band in total control of their material. And it’s material that’ll deafen anyone to chatter that surrounds it.
The Talkies is available for purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe