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live review // Girl Band + Bomb Factory + Prom in Cambridge
words // Patrick Widdess

Portland Arms – June 10th

Dublin’s all male four-piece Girl Band should still be jamming in their parents’ garages in-between college work but they already have the music industry drooling over their post-punk noise. This debut gig in Cambridge is an early chance to get a proper taste of the intriguing sound heard on two limited-edition 7-inches released this year.

The night kicks off with Prom who play a sexy infusion of grunge, metal and goth with a touch of classic rock. Lead singer Angela Won-Yin Mak is a striking focal point, by turns cool and impassioned. One of the later songs in the set is a monstrous piece of psychedelia with the colours burnt black. Haunting vocals in the style of Broadcast and Cocteau Twins contrast with a heavy backing. They close with a furious maelstrom of thrash and distortion and will leave an impression till the end of the night and for many nights to come.

Punk outfit xBomb Factory follow with band members and fury spilling off the stage. Frontman Ranting Jack paces up and down doing his best to live up to his name whilst the band rattle through their neo-punk stance tied in with gnarly guitar riffs.

Girl Band open with a simple drumbeat and single note guitar riff yet these basic components manage to create a visceral, enthralling sound even before Dara Kiely opens his mouth. The frontman, who, moments earlier, was shuffling about stage like an awkward school boy, now stands transfixed, gripping the mic stand like a preacher possessed. His words are slurred and hard to catch but it is the voice of a genius, as distinctive as Tom Waits or Mark E. Smith.

Whether slowly chanting or shrieking in a fit of frenzy, he is intent and in absolute control, like a man who has drunk his way to some purer level of wisdom and sobriety. The same intensity grips the rest of the band as they play with absolute precision. There’s an uncanny touch of disco amongst the hardcore drumming and guitar and bass drenched with thick but not excessive reverb and distortion.

The audience are also entranced, rooted to the spot as they try to figure out how it works. How does a band with such a well-worn, elementary approach to making music manage to sound so unique and exhilarating? It seems perfectly natural to the band who storm through their first three or four songs without a pause.

The slow beat at the start of Lawman raises a cheer, an invigorating song that steadily builds-up and self-destructs in a percussive clatter with screeching feedback over 6 minutes. It is followed by The Cha Cha Cha, belted out in half a minute. The two singles form a familiar centrepiece to the set and the other songs are equally powerful on the first listen.

They play for about half-an-hour; a tight, compact set from a band who, even at this early stage, know exactly where they are going and have everyone else desperately trying to catch up.

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