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'France 98'
(Any Other City Records)

Sam Shepherd

sam shepherd

Girl Band – France 98

With nary a vagina between them it's fair to say that as a band name, Girl Band is a bit misleading and anyone expecting Girls Aloud or Shangri-Las pop tunes is likely to be disappointed.

Not that there's anything wrong with an occasional dollop of pop goodness of course, but this particular Girl Band is not going to deliver close harmonies in beehive haircuts (as far as we can tell). Nope, this Dublin 4-piece seems more intent in exploring the blueprint laid out in the late 80s and early 90s by Sonic Youth and Mudhoney.

'France 98' then is an EP that will bear no surprises for anyone well versed in that particular period of musical history, but that's not to say that Girl Band are simply retreading old ground. This is a band that has taken those influences and run with them.

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Opening up with 'You're A Dog', it's clear that the band revel in making a frantic noise that jams 60s Garage Rock up against Hardcore fury and Grunge apathy. It's a screaming bloody mess, but in amongst the squall, it's possible to pick out elements of The Kinks ('You Really Got Me'), Mark Arm's howl, Fugazi's 'Guilford Fall' and Sonic Youth's all out cacophony. Yet somehow, despite all these markers it's idiosyncratic enough to not sound like an all-too-worthy homage. There's real intent and purpose to Girl Band, and it is obvious right from the off.

'Busy At Maths' once again possesses some of that Geffen era Sonic Youth discordance-meets-pop nous, and although the feral blast of 'You're A Dog' is absent, there's plenty of edge in the vocals and brooding guitars to ensure that things never get too comfortable.

The title track changes pace and embraces a more frantic style that dispatches with any notion of melody and insteads opts to steamroller everything under waves of fuzz. Fans of The Jesus Lizard or the Am Rep back catalogue will be undoubtedly impressed.

'Second One' toys with catch and release dynamics perfectly as it veers between playfully unhinged and unbridled feedback brutality (complete with Cobain howl).

It is perhaps the closing track, 'Handswaps', that is the highlight of 'France 98' however. A fairly linear journey in dynamics, it sees the band utilising drones and feedback to create unsettling undulating soundscapes. These apparently uncontrolled outbursts are held in place by an incessant (and entirely necessary) bass line; the calm at the eye of the storm.

What with the METZ album last year and the re-visiting of 'In Utero' on the horizon surely imminent, it seems likely that the alt-rock explosion (for want of a different terminology) of the late 80s and early 90s will be picked over constantly for the foreseeable future. While everyone else is looking back, hopefully Girl Band can begin to move things forward.

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