“I look crap with my shirt off!” Girl Band’s Dara Kiely yammers on his band’s full-length debut. He sure sounds convincing. But he doesn’t seem too shy about it, either — less like someone cowering embarrassedly in his room than a guy who’s turned his fish-belly skin and concave abs into a creepy point of pride. That kind of confrontational, matter-of-fact ugliness is what this Irish post-punk crew does so well, torturing their instruments with dead-eyed precision and diabolical resolve. The dank, relentless music sounds like it was recorded in a meat locker under a fallout shelter, with a huge debt to the menacing off-kilter trounce of the Liars and Nick Cave’s Birthday Party. Kiely plays the art-academy Travis Bickle, always one bad peer-review away from going postal as he swerves from flatline declamations to unhinged yammering over gray sheets of noise and flatline drum assault.
In keeping with their key influences, Girl Band are more musical than all the bashing and caterwauling might let on — this year’s five-song singles collection The Early Years featured the gloriously lurching six-minute “Lawman,” where every corrosive amp-fart seemed precisely calculated for maximum grossness, as well as a cover of a song by U.K. techno artist Blawan. Holding Hands With Jamie veers from the trapped-cheetah guitar squall and roiling drum surge of “Umbongo” to the gout-footed doo-wop dirge “In Plastic” to the nightmare gallop of “The Witch Dr.” to the excellently titled “Texting An Alien,” a welcome detour into grim, bleary beauty. Kiely makes for a compelling, at times dryly funny, chronicler of everyday life-hate. The most harrowing moment: “Fucking Butter,” where a trip to the shop to buy bread turns into eight pulsating minutes of cavernous orchestrated terror — like a psychedelic painting drawn in a dozen shades of black.