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Album Of The Week

Tales Of The City: Goat Girl’s Goat Girl
Anna Wood , April 5th, 2018 07:57

The excellent debut album from Goat Girl is a sticky smudged love letter to south London

Right in the middle of this album - track 10 of 19 - is ‘The Man’, propelled by guitars and drums and that urgent woozy guttural carnal-don’t-care desire you get, sometimes, if you’re lucky. There’s something so straightforward about this song - “You’re the man, you’re the man, you’re the man / You’re the man for me” it goes, over and over. “Your eyes,” they drawl, “watching my thighs.” It is sordid and drenched in hormones. The centrepiece of the record, ‘The Man’ is like a big pulsing tentpole; around it is a much murkier patchwork-portrait of south London in 2018.

These are tales of the city told by four friends, and some of their friends (including a monologue from a mate, and contributions from a violin player they met in a pub shortly before they started recording). Some of the stories are clear (‘The Man’, ‘Creep On The Train’, ‘Burn The Stake’ with its vehement anti-Tory lyrics), others are semi-opaque (‘Viper Fish’ is, I think, about urban pollution and feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day living), most of them are deliciously difficult to parse (including that monologue, on ‘A Swamp Dogs Tale’). The 19 tracks include five interludes, mostly improvised in the basement of producer Dan Carey, which add to the feeling that this is a rogues’ gallery, a flickering zoetrope, a visceral no-context tour of New Cross, Brixton, Lewisham, and the various haunts of this band over recent years. The record plays through, almost without gaps, one song blurring into another like a suite or a soundtrack, or like a load of shitfaced nights out.

‘Creep On The Train’ adapts strands of Butthole Surfers’ ‘Creep In The Cellar’ (well, the title and the unsettling violin) and weaves them into a tale of being filmed and intimidated on TFL. The indolence of Lottie’s voice works especially well as she sings: “Creep on the train / I really want to smash your head in / Smash your head right in.” The revenge-fantasy payoff utterly changes the energy of the song, for the better; the violin starts to feel like part of a smash-the-sleazeballs barndance, and it is very cheering. The influence of Country Teasers is explicit too, not least in ‘Country Sleaze’, and through the kinship with fellow Country Teasers fans Fat White Family - Goat Girl and FWF share venues, mates, producers, and a fair few influences and opinions.

Goat Girl build a whole cohesive world on this album, though, a grubby diorama; it’s someone telling you about their life, kindly, honestly, and not giving you any background because you’ve been friends for years. ‘Viper Fish’ has a hum underneath it, like you’re living too close to a pylon, a stinking-lovely guitar riff, and a lyrical refrain that’s almost like a lullaby: “Don’t shed a tear / We all feel fear / We all feel pain.” It’s perhaps the richest single song on the album, not the best, necessarily, but the one that has the most layers, the most ideas, the one that gives the widest landscape. ‘Cracker Drool’ is maybe the danciest, most moshpit-happy moment (although there are plenty).

This is a young album, too: an antidote to all the articles about house prices, feckless millennials or smashed avocados on sourdough. This is just a document of being young and uncertain and trying not to be a wanker and trying to have a good time in a city which makes all of those things extremely difficult. They are cool - you can hear it in the basslines and the louche singing and the cooool influences, and in the way they don’t care (they have a song called ‘I Don’t Care part 1’ and ‘I Don’t Care part 2’ - they are aware of the logic trap of coolness and of their own wriggling away from it). How do you form a band at The Windmill, get signed by Rough Trade, and navigate your relationship with cool?

You do it with excellent songs, and by being funny and honest and kind. And cool, obviously. There’s a masterstroke too, right at the end of Goat Girl. A rendition of ‘Tomorrow’ from Bugsy Malone; kids being grownups and dreaming of a better future. It is a sleepy, stoned version, not quite sentimental but definitely sweet and drowsy. And it closes with birdsong, a new morning with a breeze in the trees and hope on the horizon. Among the swagger and rage and dirt on this record (and we do love swagger and rage and dirt), there’s a flinty hope and a rich seam of joy.