At the start of their European tour, Girl Band stopped off at Manchester Academy 2 to deliver a brutal sub-80 minute set comprising tracks from their back catalogue as well as from their new record, The Talkies.
Introduced by a barrage of flashing lights, the Irish quartet launched straight into ‘Pears for Lunch’, a single from their debut, Holding Hands With Jamie. A fiery start for the band, demonstrating that, despite a two-year hiatus in the UK, they still have the energy for their most boisterous songs.
It didn’t take long for the band to hit their stride – within the first ten minutes they had already created a palpably harsh atmosphere, with specific breakdowns and louder moments emphasised by the mixing of the drums, pumped up loud enough to feel like gunshots. Songs such as ‘Fucking Butter’ and ‘Lawman’ enamoured the room with their caustic noise, despite minimal engagement from the back half of the crowd.
As the set went on, Girl Band began to bring their newer, less direct songs into the fold, still holding the attention of the onlookers. Tracks such as ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ and ‘Laggard’ expressed the band’s more progressive side, deviating from the punchy, structural noise rock of their earlier songs, and bestowing abrasive experiments on the audience instead. These songs, whilst, perhaps, not what the band are known for, nor what many of the audience would have come to see, demonstrated the eloquent (if less harsh) horizons that their new material is striving to reach.
Diversity is certainly Girl Band’s strength. The preceding ‘Amygdala’ and ‘The Cha Cha Cha’ were super short, noise-punk numbers, harking back to Bleach-era Nirvana, or the New York hardcore scene of the 1980s. This display of sonic diversity highlights Girl Band’s strength as artists — despite being labelled ‘noise-rock’, they are clearly capable of experimenting with those tropes.
Further demonstration came with the song ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’, a cover of the Blawan dance track. Here, Girl Band pushed the envelope of noise-rock (and revealed their EDM influences) by supplementing their harsh sound with a techno beat. The head-bouncing rhythm contrasted beautifully with their screeching guitars and wailing vocals.
One element of the show that helped elevate them above their peers was sheer instrumental prowess. Adam Faulkner, the drummer, played with military precision and speed; the rhythm section howled away, held together by experimental noise. Meanwhile, vocalist Dara Kiely maintained his aggressive drawl, not once breaking, fluffing or missing a beat. This was encapsulated by the end of the set. Closing classic ‘Paul’ built off a simple bass line and beat, whilst Dara rambled over the instrumentation. Its pulsating rhythm culminated in a distorted explosion and high pitched scream from Dara — the band’s most defining characteristics in one bombastic track.
Girl Band are back with a bang. They’ve shown that they can push genre boundaries, crafting a unique sonic identity that doesn’t need compromises to come off live. Combine the raw delivery of anxiety-driven lyrics with a tight rhythm section and a noisy-as-hell guitar and you’ve got Girl Band — bastions of the contemporary noise scene, all gas, no brakes. Just a shame the back half of the crowd weren’t as into it as us.