The Art of Coordinated Chaos in Girls Band’s “The Talkies”
by Isaiah Anthony
Outstanding art has a way of leaving us in a different place than where we were beforehand. It resonates, almost irritates, as it lingers in our mind, making concentrating on anything else difficult.
Sometimes this virus-like art takes the shape of a haunting image of war or an awe-inspiring film. Other times it is roughly two minutes of heavy breathing over a single note.
That is how Irish noise-rock band Girl Band welcomes you to their sophomore album, The Talkies. In the busy four years since the band’s debut project, Holding Hands with Jamie, Girl Band appears to have mastered their method of artistic creation -- unleash, then polish. The quartet, consisting of vocalist Dara Kiely, Alan Duggan on guitar, Daniel Fox on bass and Adam Faulkner on drums, gels to create one of the most captivating albums of the year.
Whether it sounds like a cutlery set going down a garbage disposal or a symphony of warning alarms blaring in harmony, no track on The Talkies feels without direction. The sound transcends individual instruments, creating a cohesive narrative of sonic distortion that lands the listener right where they think they are supposed to be, right before uprooting them and taking them somewhere entirely different.
On ‘Laggard,’ a nearly six-minute-long track, the first third of the song is a simple drum rift underlying a slow-building, pulsating, blare. The blaring then cuts out, opening the doors for vocalist Dana Keiry and guitarist Alan Duggan. They let loose for about a minute before the song again strips away all but the drums, which heavily subside for Kiery to sing a soft, melodic verse about football and guillotines. Then the song concludes by coming full circle, reigniting the beginning blare with the instrumental mayhem of the second act. ‘Laggard’ is a fitting microcosm for The Talkies and Girl Band; masterfully orchestrated mayhem.
Lyrically, Girl Band continues to operate on a fever dream level, in what could be mistaken as the ramblings of a sleep-deprived Walt Whitman, dancing between states of awake and unconscious. On occasion, Girl Band will allow the listener behind the artistic curtain, such as on ‘Aibophobia,’ where all the lines are palindromes, one of the few tracks where a pattern is apparent. Ironically, ‘Aibophobia’ is perhaps the least interesting track on the album, with lyrics bordering on gimmicky and uninspired, repetitive instrumentals.
Most tracks, however, leave meaning up to the listener, which might be for the best.
On ‘Shoulderblades,’ Keiry raves about hats for the two-faced man, Ed Mordake, Dutch gold, and the T.V. host Rikki Lake in what proves to be a stumper for the lyrics annotators over at Genius.com. One takeaway might be that the song is about the struggle to keep up appearances and the futile effort to hide aspects of ourselves that we dislike. Regardless, the track is an all-around harrowing delight.
Girl Band further flexes a muscle for crafting art that dumbfounds in the music video for ‘Shoulderblades,’ recruiting fellow Dublin native Bob Gallagher to direct. The video plays like a haunting reimagining of Ophelia’s final monologue in Hamlet, demonstrating what might have happened if she had been given an mp3 player containing Girl Band’s discography before the fourth act.
In line with allusions to Shakespeare, Whitman, and urban legends, the beauty of The Talkies comes from what is extrapolated. The listener is hit with a barrage of ideas and noise, orchestrated to keep you suspended in a mystified state of fascination. What you get from it, and you are almost certain to get something, is up to you. The listener is indoctrinated into the creative mind of Girl Band. At the very least, they are in for a helluva ride.