Album of the week : Cursing The Sea - September Girls

There’s a lot surrounding September Girls, even before the music, which makes them fairly irresistible and hard not to love. There’s the name: Big Star by way of the Bangles; there’s the use of the word ‘Girls’ (see also Dum Dum, Vivian and Post War Glamour) and then finally the style, look and pure focus of this Irish five-piece that marks them out as a gang of friends that you’d love to be part of, but deep down inside you know you’d never be as effortlessly cool as them…never mind the fact you’re also slightly intimidated by a note of underlying menace

Cursing the Sea is September Girls’ – the band is made up of Paula Cullen (bass, vocals), Caoimhe Derwin (guitar, vocals), Lauren Kerchner (keyboards, vocals), Jessie Ward (guitar, vocals) and Sarah Grimes (drums) – debut album following their formation in 2011 and release of a handful of songs and EPs which brought them to the attention of Fortuna POP! While Big Star and the Bangles is a good starting point to cover the band’s jangle, the intensity comes from the added darkness pulled from another handful of clear influences like Phil Spector, The Cure and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Derwin’s and Ward’s guitars and vox are drenched in reverb while the real star of the record is often the gothic/psych organ drone provided by Kerchner’s fine work on keyboards

Built around a simple, spiky guitar line, the sub-two minute title track opens proceedings with catchy vocal melodies and persistent drums forming the basis of a raw, intriguing introduction. Eastern sounding, simplistic guitar notes lead into Chrissie Hynde-like chorus warblings for ‘Another Love Song’, sounding a little like Siouxsie And The Banshees in the process before a slow, stripped down four-note guitar line introduces the pounding drums and racing rhythm guitar of ‘Left Behind’. The echoey vocals (that remain a constant throughout) sound so drenched in reverb that they must have been recorded in an echo chamber, producing something weirdly resembling the sugar coated sickly sweetness of Strawberry Switchblade attempting to play early material from The Cure

The band’s most recognisable single, ‘Heartbeats’, reveals their lighter side; it’s a massive pop song, all Johnny Marr jangle in the guitars and heavy on the harmonies, and a lovely shard of daylight amongst the dominance of noir; alongside ‘Talking’ it’s the most uplifting moment on the album. It doesn’t last long as the wonky chime of ‘Green Eyed’ brings back a darker mood

The impressive ‘Ships’ then sails into focus with an extended up-tempo instrumental section boasting repetitive, pounding drums and raw, reverb-laced guitar and more fuzz from Paula Cullen’s bass

‘Talking’ benefits from more high pitched, catchy church organ and vocal melodies, but things slow down for the spine-chilling ‘Daylight’ as the fuzz-pop takes a slight detour with another excellent organ solo stealing the limelight. ‘Money’ sports a doomy guitar line and fuzzy bass before the catchy guitar-driven chorus appears; the punkier ‘Someone New’ bursts into life with grinding neo-grunge antics congealing around classic Blondie-style voices - the piranha-darting vocal lines weave, occasionally one will take the lead as others harmonise

‘Secret Lovers’ is a rather unremarkable number, with the treble-heavy sound and unexciting chorus perhaps yearning for the fuzz bass to be amped up to max. ‘Sister’ then closes the album with the missing bass from Secret Lovers introducing itself a little late to the party, driving the track along with its incessant pounding before tribal drums appear alongside raucous, reverb-heavy guitar and sweet, innocent sounding vocals to help deliver another highlight

September Girls wear their influences so boldly they might as well have them tattooed. There’s a difference between original and interesting, though, and there’s plenty of the band’s own identity on Cursing the Sea, which marks the start of what could yet be a tremendous 2014 for the quintet in deliciously dark fashion

Buy it here

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