South London post rockers Goat Girl return with the follow up to 2018’s debut release Goat Girl, an album that was tinged in grunge and disdain. A lineup change with new bassist Holly Hole joining to replace Naima Jelly, a burn injury that cancelled a tour and a global pandemic in between, there’s certainly been many hurdles to getting this album released. With production being helmed by Speedy Wundergound’s own Dan Carey they have expanded their sound into new territories incorporating elements of synth-pop, jazz and soft-rock delivering a gratifying and woozy sophomore outing.
The band have never been ones to shy away from political messaging and throughout this album they continue to challenge the burdens of capitalism, casual racism in the media and climate change. Opener “Pest” cleverly flips around the phrase of “Beast from the east”, realising that this way of phrasing suggests that these extreme weathers are a result of the eastern hemispheres industrial revolutions, where in reality we are the ones that started the chain of pollution. “Pest from the west, drums on his chest” sings lead singer Lottie Cream in her deadpan style. Backed by a symphony of encapsulating rising guitar lines and bubbling synthesisers, the sound is easy on the ears whilst simultaneously impossibly menacing.
Although this album was written before any notion of a pandemic began and the fallout from it there are themes that resonate with a collective more wider than they might have originally thought. Lead single “Sad Cowboy” may seem upbeat through its use of club based synths and driving groove but lyrically the band speak on notions of feeling isolated from society, due to the often felt naivety of the many to some of the failings of homelessness, austerity and gentrification. And this contrast is cleverly woven into the lyrics. “Where colours play in the sky again, Through the windowpane, night time dissipates” where Cream is singing about these dreamlike surroundings that contrast her state of mind in the chorus where she sings “Slippin’ my hold, It comes and it goes, The feeling we’re told, Isn’t so”. Conveying the feeling of becoming detached from a world that is a much crueler place than is casually perceived.
But away from the socially commentary the band displays an incredible amount of rawness in their detailing of their own struggles with mental health. From the breezy but moving “Anxiety Feels” that details L.E.D’s struggle with anxiety and isolation and the choice between whether to involve medication. “I don’t wanna be on those pills, heard they make you numb, find another way to get my fill” she declares as the track opens. But it’s only when the chorus melodies and harmonies kick in that the true weight of this songs is felt, it may only be simple declarations of “finding it hard” but you can hear the unconcealed emotion oozing out. And one of the highlights of this album comes in the form of “Closing In” both lyrically and sonically. The simple melancholic synth melody of the verse create a truly ominous sense of unease that perfectly captures the tenderness that Cream is writing about. But she depicts her illness as an entity that comes and goes through the clever lyricisim of “I feel the ghost, she slipped through my bones, pushing around and allowed to expose”.
Compared to the gritty and grinding sound of their debut album, there’s a certain amount of dreaminess and psychedelia washed over this album. The guitars are cleaner, the mix is smoother and the grooves are looser. But in this new formed freeness the band revere in their collective sound, allowing each movement to become funkier and more expansive than ever. The likes of which are found all over the descending groove of “Badibaba” which also introduces the new injection of jazz elements into the bands sound through the off beat vocal melodies and slinky bass lines. And on “P.T.S.Tea”, that tells the story of how drummer Rosy Jones was scolded with hot tea on a ferry by a man who didn’t even acknowledge the event, the song may open with an upbeat synth-pop intro but it slowly descends into a jazzy and psychedelic soundscape that feels like your swimming in the discontent that the band creates with their swirling vocals.
That’s not to say however there aren’t moments that get lost in the looseness and the gritty feel of the first album is missing. “Jazz (In The Supermarket)” showcases the bands talent to build on different movements from an instrumental perspective, but with its early placement in the tracklisting and four and a half minute run time it slows down the flow of the album without adding too much that can’t be found later on sonically. And the blissful swaying jazz verses of the first half of “A-Men” become somewhat overshadowed by the drawn out second half that take just a bit too long to reach their conclusion.
This album takes a look at the world, both retrospectively and introspectively and tries to understand and question our ways of life whilst seeking for change in both aspects. Sonically Goat Girl may be leaning towards a more woozier sound than their debut, but the songwriting and undying drive to seek and inspire a better world is still as potent as ever.