A month back, I spoke highly about The Murder Capital and their breakout debut record When I Have Fears. However, I also mentioned how the Dublin, overall, was experiencing its own post-punk revival, and what a revival it has turned out to be! With bands like the aforementioned and even Fontaines D.C. releasing two of the most critically-acclaimed records this year, enough room was left for one more act to perfect the holy trinity of Irish punk greatness—that act being the ever-obnoxious Girl Band and their sophomore record The Talkies.

Returning after a four-year hiatus, not only has Girl Band completed this triad of greatness from Dublin, but the Dana Kierly-fronted weirdos have simultaneously separated themselves, plunging into a musical underworld of chaos and complete lunacy. This is no knock against the band’s comparably tamed contemporaries, but Girl Band’s latest record throws the clean, cut, melodies and beautiful poetry of their Irish counterparts out the window, for arrangements and production that are at once primitive and innovative.

While The Talkies’ growling mix of noise rock, punk, and industrial is an anomalous product, Girl Band remains true to its already-mastered manic core and even wears its influences respectfully on its sleeve. Kierly’s voice—full of anxiety and slight humor—has always been set beside that of the late Mark E. Smith. Smith possessed an unnerving slur that veils a mind most poetic. Likewise, Kierly spins his words indecipherable, though his lyrics remain thoughtfully abstract.

With Kierly's mangey vocals having paired well with their untamed noise in the past, Girl Band’s latest offering ramps up their known abrasiveness to a whole new level, for a sound that is bolder and indebted to the abstract chaos that’s always dwelled deep within him and his gang. Though deranged energy remains as Girl Band’s core, this album sees them experiment with atmospheric dissonance, forcibly detaching listeners from their once-calm but boring realities.

A musical panic attack without fail, The Talkies unveils itself with exactly that - a panic attack - in ‘Prolix’. As Kierly gasps for air, foaming at the mouth with saliva into the microphone in distress, a slight throb pulsates behind the gnashing gasps, pushing the album into the ear-splitting disarray that is ‘Going Norway’. With Adam Faulkner frantically pounding away at drums, ‘Going Norway’ features Kierly straining his vocals over distorted guitars, as he battles with the whispering lies inside his head telling him that what he’s feeling is “just mental".

With the stage aptly set for the unwinding delirium to come, Girl Band keeps its foot on the gas pedal with album’s rumbling lead single, ‘Shoulderblades’. There’s not much else to be said about this track that hasn’t been said already, other than it is a multi-headed monster that ominously introduces (or reintroduces) listeners to the band’s morbid musical inclinations.

While ‘Shoulderblades’ leaves listeners frenzying beneath a deluge of pummelling bass and Kierly’s incessant shouts, ‘Couch Combover’ sifts out any surviving listeners from the pillage and throws them into the hissing fire of hell as he painfully wails about seemingly nothing: “Happy as Larry/ Called the teacher mammy/ gave birth to a fax machine.”

Having made it this far in the album, the weirdness of Girl Band and their frontman will perplex listeners to a point of no return. With Kierly and company beguiling their listeners into a perverse “happy place”, the remainder of the record proves to be even more disruptive to one's ears and psyche. Speaking of the psyche, this album communicates a shaken mental state similar to Daughters’ 2018 noise rock masterpiece You Won't Get What You Want. However, instead of dwelling in the darkness of insanity like that album, The Talkies sees Girl Band laugh and frolic amidst its madness. Thus, within this frame of mind, Girl Band paints an unashamed and unhinged portrait, one that brutally reflects the bubbling hate and desire to be heard, inside us all.

Though many of Kierly’s swords are scatter-brained and hilarious to read (please give each song’s lyrics a read—you won't regret it), the innumerable references and mentions of his mental struggles are quite personal and brave. Girl Band’s return to the spotlight is easily the effort most in-tune with mental illness of 2019. The Talkies is rough around the edges, is of a debased, primal nature, yet is incredibly on-point with the unsettling atmosphere it communicates. Girl Band is officially the crown jewel of Irish punk, if a beautifully horrific crown jewel.