Dublin-based post-punk quintet Mhaol were first tipped as ones to watch with the release of their debut single ‘Clementine’ seven years ago. The group would not release any new music for another five years, breaking their silence with the 2020 single ‘Laundries’, which was swiftly followed by the Gender Studies EP a year later.
Now, in 2023, Mhaol have released their debut LP Attachment Styles, an uncompromising project which sees barbed, discordant guitar riffs and pounding, tribal drums built around intersectional feminist diatribes against patriarchy and heteronormativity.
The album is as emotionally raw as it is sonically; its lyrical content ranging from vulnerable and purgative to gleeful. Opening track ‘Asking For It’ tackles rape culture, on which vocalist Roisín Nic Ghearailt at first concedes to being “the dumb bitch that left the party with you”, admitting that “the law loves people that look like you” to defiantly snarling “my whole life won’t be defined by you.”
On ‘I’m So Bored’ (“of talking about men”) and ‘No One Ever Talks To Us’ (“unless they wanna fuck”) her deadpan vocal delivery reflects the tedious reality that motivates her performance. Elsewhere, ‘Femme’, ‘Nice Guys’ and ‘Bisexual Anxiety’ add wit-laced vulnerability to the album (“I should have cut my hair off when I knew I was queer / It would have made it easier on everyone here”, “He says nice guys finish last, but I didn’t finish at all” or “I’m not trysexual / As in, don’t try anything sexual with me” anyone?)
It’s an album that refuses to play by the rules, or at least society’s expectations. The group saves its taboo busting best for last on closing track, lead single ‘Period Sex’, on which Nic Ghearailt coos and sighs lustfully (“I want to make a mess”) before facing the listener head on “if this song makes you uncomfortable you should ask yourself: why?”
Such is the whole vibe of Attachment Styles. It’s a challenging, thought-provoking record which sets patriarchal norm defying musings against a minimalistic, angular approach to song arrangement. Now with a Rough Trade deal, Mhaol deliver on the fearless potential they offered a glimpse of all those years ago.