Ostensibly, Girl Band vocalist Dara Kiely is saying, “I can eat your pears for lunch” toward the end of “Pears for Lunch,” the second track on the band’s debut LP, Holding Hands With Jamie. But it sounds more like “I can eat your head for lunch” than anything else, which is an apt description of what Girl Band’s music feels like. The Ireland noise-rock four-piece sounds and feels like it wants to rip you to shreds at any second, and it probably could. While nominally indebted to post-punk, hardcore and noise, what Girl Band turns these influences into is entirely sui generis.
In case it wasn’t readily apparent, Girl Band is not music for the faint of heart (or ear). Songs start out screaming to life and then briefly pause only to come back louder and more violent than before. They stagger down blind-alley detours and forget where they are or have been. The rhythm section of Daniel Fox and Adam Faulkner beat their instruments to shit like some kids who’ve just discovered their enemies’ favorite toys. Alan Duggan’s guitar is the sort of grinding, harsh static sound that schizophrenics probably hear. Or, for a more obvious musical metaphor, imagine the opening screech of Nirvana’s “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” but for entire songs.
I mean all of this as a compliment. Holding Hands With Jamie is far from an easy listen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun in many places. It’s just fun you might want to brace your ears for. Sometimes it comes in quick bursts, like “The Last Riddler,” which is as short as a Bad Brains hardcore rant. Other times, Girl Band will build up a slow groove, like the lurching rhythm of “Paul” or the stoned, street-corner poet rant of “Texting Alien,” and then throw a musical IED in your lap. (In the latter’s case, that comes as the succeeding track, “Fucking Butter.”) It is highly corrosive music, but it’s also adventurous and unpredictable in a way that a lot of extreme music, for all its volume and devastation, is not.
If Kiely’s lyrics are supposed to make any sense, they don’t, but I don’t think they are—at least not specifically to the listener. They add to the effect of the mad, delusional state that the music encourages as a whole, evoking a place of great chaos and—potentially—wonder. Kiely is an effective vocalist, albeit one with no interest whatsoever in being a traditional frontman, whether he’s screaming or rant-singing in a manner reminiscent of Jello Biafra. A band this punishingly loud and not-accessible—not exactly inaccessible—is not going to have the easiest time crossing over to the fans of indie darlings, let alone the mainstream alternative or rock charts. (Those still exist, I’ve been told.) The good news is that I don’t get the sense that Girl Band care much about such things. This is the sound they’ve been building toward in their previous EP and singles and hinted at in their already-notorious live shows, here in full bloom. They sound exactly as they wish to, and I can’t see them compromising on anyone else’s terms.