Three years on from their celebrated second album The Talkies, Gilla Band (formerly known as Girl Band) are back with Most Normal, and they’re not messing around.
The first thirty seconds of opener ‘The Gum’ sounds like what you might hear if you woke up in the middle of a busy construction site with a blinding hangover. Adam Faulkner’s relentless drumming and Dara Kiely’s nightmarish vocals kick in to remind you that technically you’re listening to a song, before the track descends into a cacophony that feels like the soundtrack for an exorcism composed by Justice. These are all compliments.
If you’re not fully sold on experimental noise rock, tracks like ‘Eight Fivers’, ‘Backwash’ and ‘Bin Liner Fashion’ might be a little less intimidating, at least for a few seconds. They put Kiely’s darkly personal lyrics front and centre, giving the listener something to hold onto before dragging you into another chaotic freak-out.
‘The Weirds’, the album’s halfway point, is also a highlight. It starts with a tinnitus hiss punctuated by a distorted siren wail that might be a guitar, followed by two minutes of crunchy, pulsating layers of sound that are almost soothing until, sure enough, Faulkner’s drums return to bring us back into the nightmare realm until a comparatively chilled-out drum and bass groove rescues us and takes us back to the tinnitus whistle from where we came in. It’s a 6 minute and 44 second odyssey that serves as a grab bag filled with the most exciting and effective elements of Most Normal; witty and vulnerable lyrics, brain-melting sounds and joyously jarring shifts in form that keep you hooked into the album’s vision.
And what is Most Normal’s vision?
Given that the album was written and recorded in 2020 and 2021, it’s tempting to make a connection between its title and the phrase that saturated the media during the pandemic; ‘new normal’. Some writers proposed that the uncertainty and isolation of lockdowns were easier to deal with for people already living with stress and anxiety; that there was almost a relief in seeing the rest of the world having to acknowledge the chaos that had been ‘normal’ in their minds for years. Most Normal, with its manic outbursts and gleeful abandoning of familiar structures, might be the most accurate sonic representation of the feeling of living through the first few years of the 2020s that we’ve heard yet.
But, and this is a big reason why the album really works, Most Normal is just as exciting to listen to without trying to identify themes and secret codes in the noise. The spirit of experimentation that the band took into the studio during the album’s recording is evident from the first few seconds. The songs don’t give you any time to get too comfortable. Every time you think you’ve figured out what Kiely, Duggan, Fox and Faulkner are up to, they pull the rug out from under you again, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.