As their Bandcamp page so boldly proclaims, 'September Girls are a Dublin-based five piece, playing fuzzy and reverb-soaked garage pop with heaps of harmonies'. I don’t think it’d be especially controversial of me to suggest that none of what’s on offer there is in short supply at the minute; neither, for that matter, are bands with ‘Girls’ as their titular suffix, or stylised, all-female outfits with guitars (there’s actually quite a bit of overlap between the two). Consider, also, that Cursing the Sea arrives in an early January release wasteland that will effectively render it ineligible for end-of-year lists, and it’s quickly apparent that September Girls are up against it with this debut full-length.
It’s interesting to note that one of the band’s early efforts was released through Haus of Pins, the imprint of their one-time tourmates PINS, because Cursing the Sea sounds a lot like how I’d expected Girls Like Us, last year’s PINS record, would. That album surprised me, for better or worse, with its not-quite-lo-fi production style and lack of ferocity relative to their live shows. Neither such feature is fairly applicable to Cursing the Sea, though; it is the polar opposite of polish, and the pace at which it zips along is perhaps its biggest strength.
There’s a uniformity to both of those things, too, a consistency to the nods the band make to their influences; as cliched as it might be to make reference to them where reverb-happy sound is concerned, it’s impossible to ignore the sheer weight of the bearing that The Jesus and Mary Chain clearly had on September Girls. It’s crucial, then, that there’s something about their sound that sets them apart in an overcrowded market; on that front, they can point to the sheer atmosphere of Cursing the Sea.
As nicely varied as the guitar work is - the intros to ‘Left Behind’ and ‘Ships’ feature blistering riffs, whilst ‘Heartbeats’ moves much closer to jangle-pop territory - there’s a common urgency underscoring it that lends the record some genuine menace. The heavily distorted vocals play a part, too; just clear enough to carry the melody, but usually too foggy for the actual lyrics to be properly discerned, they’re a big part of the genuinely enigmatic air that the album’s scored through with. There’s a sprinkling of sparse, nervy keys, too, particularly on ‘Talking’ and the excellent ‘Green Eyed’; their organ-like sound brings a touch of something gothic to the table, and marks out the record, in certain places, as the brattier, moodier cousin of Veronica Falls’ debut.
There's still nothing very original here; even if this particular musical seam wasn’t already one currently being excavated to exhaustion, 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.
7Joe Goggins's Score