Girl band - holding hands with jamie 

Kenalyn Ang

Hectic, frantic, and feverish, Girl Band’s newest album Holding Hands with Jamie is loud to the point of being a mess of crashing sounds that leaves me with a grimace and furrowed brows. First formed in 2011, the four Irishmen of Girl Band are relatively young and quite difficult to find online or stumble upon without putting in an effort to do so. Listening to the album without any previous knowledge or background on the group doesn't leave much to the imagination: it's a total shocker.

Girl Band released this album at the end of last month after a rumored three days of recording. With the volume cranked up, the first track on the album, Umbongo, has an insane amount of energy. It opens with distorted guitar chords and a drum beat to resemble a fire alarm. By song four, In Plastic, the frenetic fever is taken down a notch, as they weave spurts of catastrophic sound with a milder tune and Dara Kiely’s vocals become a bit more like singing rather than screaming. It is difficult to hear what exactly Kiely is wailing about, especially with the distant echo evident throughout, but listen closely throughout the nine songs and you may catch a few phrases. Some of my favourites include, “Spend my time watching, talking with my trousers down…” (Pears for Lunch), “Secondly, secondly, secondly, first of all…” (In Plastic), “You just shit in my neighbour’s garden” (Baloo), “I DON’T WANNA GO” (The Last Riddler), and some rambling about a girl texting an alien (in Texting an Alien). These phrases are random, confusing, and self-contradictory. 

Most of the other lines seem to be Kiely’s thoughts said out loud and transformed into one unlistenable scream over the overeager guitarist and drummer. Yet amidst the frenetic instrumentals and slightly off vocals, Girl Band is telling a story, a bizarre one but still one listeners may find relatable. As a matter of fact, vocalist Dara Kiely had a six-month mental rehabilitation before rejoining the band to create Holding Hands with Jamie, actually incorporating excerpts from the journal he wrote in during his recovery. His words make up visuals realistic enough for listeners to imagine, and they are ‘normal’ enough to actually occur. However, the band presents these very different and separate ideas and images, combined with their shrieking instrumentals, in favor of a more absurd and unpredictable story and experience for the listener. This unpredictability, the venture into the shrill exhilaration Girl Band can offer, is what seems most appealing to the public. There seems to be a surrealistic vibe emanating from Kiely’s deluded thoughts and dreams that can carry you past the crazy noise, giving the songs more depth and something listeners can consider.

At first, I had to take breaks when listening to this album because it made me worried and uneasy. These past few days I have listened to it on and off along with some of their older work, and each time I was met with jagged, piercing sounds. I noticed that the unwavering erratic din of cymbals and strings characteristic of most all of their work resulted in a steady increase in my pulse rate. However, after four evenings spent with Girl Band, I can see the positives other reviewers attribute to the album Holding Hands with Jamie. I enjoy the eccentricity in Kiely’s words and the chant-like rhythms created in every track.