Girl Band’s Absurdity Shows Progress in “Holding Hands with Jamie”

By Devon Chodzin ’19

This past week, specifically on Wednesday afternoon, I accidentally discovered the Irish four-piece no wave group Girl Band. I was immediately entranced by the haunting noise patterns that the recently released track “Paul” hurdled at me through earbuds. As it turns out, the group just released their debut album Holding Hands with Jamie via Rough Trade Records.

This album is a doozy.

The guitar-based instrumentals utilize guitars not only for their rhythmic and melodic qualities but also for their percussive qualities. The unconventional use of guitars as percussive instruments to create noise rather than music sets this band apart from many other groups. Percussionist Adam Faulkner used found objects like hubcaps and antacid bottles to bring unique sounds to the rhythm section.

Every track is grounded by some sort of repetitive line. Adam Faulkner and Daniel Fox maintain the repeated lines but adapt as Dara Kiely, the lead vocalist, alters the circumstances to be more or less chaotic. Kiely himself experienced scary manic and psychotic episodes over the past year as he wrote these songs, and this influence shows in the beyond-atypical musicality of each song. Kiely’s vocals range from inaudible mumbling to incoherent hollering and the words, at least to me, aren’t terribly discernable. However, that makes it surprisingly more fun when you actually understand something Kiely is saying, especially when he’s saying some unusual things.

For example, the one lyric I can understand Kiely screaming in “Pears for Lunch” is “I DON’T KNOW WHAT SHE WANTS.” In “Fucking Butter,” I can understand him repeating hypnotically “NUTELLA.” That can be part of the charm of no wave: every song is more and more enigmatic and probably more and more absurd.

Each song on the 9-track album is fairly similar, with a few peaks and valleys. “Umbongo” definitely sounds like an opening track and deliberate attention is paid to developing a haunting sunrise effect. “The Witch Dr.” does not act quite like a bookend so much as another climax, a risky move in album organization, but the execution is fair. The best tracks on Holding Hands with Jamie are, without a doubt, “Pears for Lunch,” “Baloo,” “Paul,” “Fucking Butter,” and “In Plastic,” and each comes with its own charm. However, the longer the track, the more it probably has to offer and the more experimentation there will probably be, so if that’s your speed, “Paul” and “Fucking Butter” are perfect fits.

Critical reception has been surprisingly high, especially in the United Kingdom. Pitchfork bestowed a 7.8 rating upon Girl Band’s first true venture into commercial music, which is arguably a solid rating by their standards, and their review offered praise. Personally, I’m deathly curious to see what this group comes up with next and I’m dying to see them live, but, sadly, that would require traveling to England.
No wave brings together absurdity and experimentation in a way that often proves to be eccentric. The eclectic style of no wave varies from band to band, and it appears that in Holding Hands with Jamie Girl Band has settled on its own hauntingly gorgeous scheme.

You can listen to the album in full here:

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