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Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review

Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review. (Own It/Cargo) Out October 14th LP/CD/DL This isn’t rock’n’roll, it’s a matter of life and death. / This isn’t entertainment, it’s exorcism. Said Ged Babey in 2019 reviewing the first Girls In Synthesis album for LTW. Ryan Walker takes up the baton: Aggressive isn’t the word. […]

The post Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.



Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album reviewGirls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review.

(Own It/Cargo)

Out October 14th


This isn’t rock’n’roll, it’s a matter of life and death. / This isn’t entertainment, it’s exorcism. Said Ged Babey in 2019 reviewing the first Girls In Synthesis album for LTW. Ryan Walker takes up the baton: Aggressive isn’t the word. It’s easy to be aggressive. It takes more than that to be all this. This is extreme. The Rest Is Distraction. 

As always with a Girls In Synthesis (GIS) record there is the unavoidable, unadulterated appreciation for the band as being built bigger than the intricate sum of its parts. It’s an entire state of mind. It’s a deeply ingrained work ethic that wants nothing more than to make their point of view; a spearhead sharpened on both political and emotional non-compliance, clear for all to see. It’s a war waged in the name of the labour of love instilled into them via Brainiac, Buzzcocks, anarcho-punk, and the self-financed iconoclasm of a melting, experimental Sheffield that used the streets as its very own stage. It’s about art as survival. It’s about finding some much-needed respite from the ravages of the intense doctrines of the modern globe in a way that retaliates, rather than recoils, as an act of mental defense. 

The Rest Is Distraction no exception. It is the sonic embodiment of all that heart, head, and hostility are pitted against it in the daily idiot-pits. Released via their Own It imprint, featuring familiar friends funkcutter, Stanley Bad on violin and horns plus some keyboards provided by ex-Fall recruit Eleni Paulou; the new album rights all wrongs, corrects certain errors, picks up and pushes against where the last laugh left off. And by unveiling the evil lurking under every floorboard and breathing around every corner like a cockroach found rummaging around in the cornflakes; put to bed a bad headwound that sees the band tackling some seriously bleak subjects.

It’s a whole worldview, a way of living, presented to us as one that cannot be confused or refused, confuted nor separated, from each other. They are the elements that exist in a state of creative comorbidity, of intense interdependence. A long player for the casualties of the human condition and its crippling tricks.  All ours to extract.

As much as they have always reveled in their intense impression on people as an operative conflation of rage in the face of monstrous rock pomposity and sleazy, industry expertise and as much as they have always succeeded in exposing the political sleight-of-hand by splintering its fingertips with their mangled, fractured racket; their new album excels in every possible way because it expands in every possible way.

This is an example of the band moving on.

The state of mind accelerates. 

It requires a similar state of mind to jump into and enjoy their chaotic noise. A noise neatly organised and clicking prolifically to the max. An ideological noise with a noose around its neck that punctures and ruptures the ribbon it often rumbles as making it a genuine feast of contemporary, creative credit that will get the recognition it deserves. We need a similar state of mind – like the Manic Street Preachers had when they were touring The Holy Bible, like Ian Curtis in May 1980, to really get to grips and equip ourselves with the purpose of the whole exploding corpus of intellectual work and antagonistic magnitude. We need to share a similar state of mind to touch their impressive, extensive body of details below the surface and beyond the bass and drums and perennial, pestilential cloud of chords but reach in deep and drive us to confront our innermost questions. All those private hells and personal truths. 

Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review
Bea Dewhurst

From the agitated neuroticisms of It’s All Beginning To Change that flashes and thrashes like John Mackay playing his head in a padded cell of cerebral imprisonment, an apocalyptic avalanche of screeching-tyre-in-an-empty-carpark; to the twin beasts Total Control and Swallowed Pill, the group has located a vein of maturity that refines the instrumental shards and scraps of metal littering England’s bitter streets and moulds them into a forceful dynamic digging into the meat of all the important hardcore lore. An atramentous dynamic that shocks the spine with a cattleprod until the eyes pop like one of Cronenberg’s Scanners if their train was delayed. Total Control almost loses all control completely; a savage sandblast of cacophony in the face of technocratic order. It fidgets and kicks like an African buffalo pissed from having a hammer and sickle branded on its arse when it wasn’t looking. All firing-squad drums. Totally engrossed in all that surrounds us.

Swallowed Pill stings by the time it reaches the swamps of the stomach. A hellish, sonic homage distilling all the group’s axiomatic edges right down to their crucial grooves. It’s the pill we all must swallow in one way or another and appears out of the darkness with some semi-spoken word self-talk between the man in the streets and his own shadow before splattering into a frenzied, hellish hardcore mess of gargantuan drum grunts that parade up and down the aisles of the song with more tusk and bone than percussion or mere beat. A bass with titanium knuckledusters firmly fastened onto its lines and legs-to-jelly guitars succeeds in removing the teeth from the cheek as they are dislodged from the upper gums.

They have formulated their own frenzied force of nature that flicks another set of switches behind our eyes that illuminates another row of lights in another hallway of rooms we were unaware were even there. Predilections refocused here and plentiful in how much adventure has been endured together. In the corner of that room is a dense psychological cobweb we have spun for ourselves the more we lean onto things we should’ve disposed of ages ago. It’s their job to blow it all away. 

The through-line is those bands, and especially this damn band, is the unwavering dedication to pushing things to their next point. To not be defined by one set of circumstances but react at the alarms around you It’s in the barbarous maximalism of each passing moment, more immoveable than the last in how heavy, how whole-hearted it welds itself to the skull. So yes fine: Crass and Cabaret Voltaire, Christian Death and Nocturnal Emissions. But also, and much more importantly in how it stretches forth into the future: Chat Pile and Bad Breeding firmly seizing the spaces where everything starts and ends with the band; continuing with the burnt offerings of Girls In Synthesis playing like there’s a gun pointing to their head and a puppeteer teasing another tug of the string. They aim to expulse all bullshit. Resilience in relying on one reference and resilience to resting on a particular pot of laurels. They are a group all about movement. Of making things happen. 

Girls In Synthesis: The Rest Is Distraction – album review
Bea Dewhurst

Motifs remain intact that fans of the band will notice since their previous albums Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future on Harbinger Sound from 2020, their Pre/Post comp compiling the band’s output from 2016-18 and all the wonderfully collectable EPs/dub remixes/singles that stand in the middle of their extensive, electric timeline. Each a snapshot of their musical mindset at that moment in time, establishing them as a force to be reckoned with, in the studio and on the road. On The Rest Is Distraction, there is a combination of new lyrical avenues and new musical moods explored. This LP is the perfect place to observe the band stripping back their sound but in turn, sharpening it into fierce new shapes. It’s in the act of starving themselves of that constant barrage of acrid, arterial, armoured prowess that breathes fresh, atomic life into the thing.

Screaming is a menacing tantrum of a man midway through a trepanning but then changes his mind. A stampede of Nicole shattered-glass drums and uncoiling wires of feedback convulse all they wrap around the system, lingering within it like a tedious globulet of phlegm. Sludgy and slimy, dark and metallic, the guitars amputate their own limbs but continue to crawl along the song’s still-pounding platform with that bloody bass marching up and down the spine with a rollicking WEM rumble, preparing for battle.

Jim Cubbit states that with both the experimentation and production values being seriously increased on this album that ‘after this, the listener will have some catching up to do’. Cottage Industry possesses the reckless post-punk voodoo of Join Hands-era Siouxsie or a mad, embodying the idea that methodically, the group have moved on and have arrived in new explorational territories to reap. It’s a carnivorous rampage past a party of silent hedges as trimmed by Bauhaus’ Lagartiji Nick. The more it ticks on the more it grows in ferocity and torches what it’s made of. Climaxing through the mantra ‘hate is where the heart is absent, hope is where the hope is bred’ into the air and almost running out of oxygen due to how emotionally demanding such a line can be to both inhale and exhale. The maddening patterns of Not As I Do follow a similar path by injecting further adrenaline into the brain’s mainframe. A total earworm guitar writhes in the mind. All the instruments hissing and spitting in the same sandpit. 

Lacking Bite on the other hand drives toward the edge of our inner earth with greater stealth and space. A fine display of singer/bassist John Linger’s recognition that: ”writing and recording this one felt like some form of cathartic release’’.

In the wake of this release; or this means to release; the album comes it comes intact with plenty of attack and enough radiative euphoria to singe the nerves to strands of flesh but still makes a point of less = more, that John makes note of how they ”learned that stripping stuff out of the music creates the right type of atmosphere for the songs’’, rather than choking it with barrages of demented noise. Quick to the point it could pull everything away from under its own feet at any given moment. Slow to the point it yearns for recovery when the critical last couple of years, specifically the ones that sprayed shit directly into the heart of a worldwide fan; have taxed humankind back to a pile of inanimate matter. 

By the time Your Prayers Have Changed charges into our direction a crater has been created where the sound once filled. It’s a quick, caustic conflagration catching us in a flurry of jagged hooks then darting in the other direction. A demented configuration of mountainous, melodic guitars, battery-powered drum stabs and stomach-punching bass boiling below the agitated, electrified drive and savage dance of it all. 

John Linger talks about life during lockdown as being a disguised blessing for the band. It enabled them to initiate the album properly, in turn enabling them to present this sonic document, this raucous portrayal of where they are right now in the best way possible. ‘It felt like we were harnessing darker moments in our personal lives, and putting it back into the music’.

Although the trio are renowned for their merciless attack against against the dated, celebrated tableaus and a kick against the veneer of another year as it erodes to reveal a pit of venomous cyber-snakes beneath by offering their dedicated fanbase a substantial slice of optimism in objects like…an LP; their is a new type of darkness. A darkness dissected on the operating tables within the heart and mind of each member; contrary to the wider, overarching affairs of the modern globe with a hole in it’s head.

They are all about the cheery topics. Claustrophobia. Isolation. Suffocation. Stagnation. The atrophy of the genuine, altruistic human. The recognition of the silent ascendance of all the little things we swallow on a daily basis, sold as pretty posters, swallowed as small pills, tirelessly scrolling as a scold of comments from Saturday’s social media poet laureates. The apoleptic stand when faced with grabbing the studded tusk of some exploitative menace with a bundle of apocryphal as a sidedish for that normalised, passable nightmare. Existential dread on the constant cusp of escape but actually, painting yourself into a particularly tricky corner, a particularly slim edge. Their riposte to realise solace is through a private idea about what punk is/can do/look like/sound like.

Here – the private idea is a darkness in one way or another, we can all find familiar – domestic hell and child abuse AND the trademark snarl of the impeaching, unleashed animal that Girls In Synthesis cut off from the collar clipped onto it easily situates the band as a self-sufficient unit tackling subjects that most would find uncomfortable because those subjects are spoken about as though they are unknown.

Singles Watch With Mother and My Husband are songs that share the same settee in the same semi-detached house. One song sits on one side, one song perches itself on the other. Sutured together but sonically distinct by casting the mind back deep enough to get a glimpse of the past glimpsing back at you. It’s the sinister first single that blinds with a phantasm of feedback. An introduction to the various diary entries, each entry another phase in the life of the first, few formative years of our narrator plagued by a film of flashbacks about how family life does a number on us all. It prods and pokes the parental underbelly, shaking the skeletons out of the closets that hide in this damaging, domestic inferno. Musically it hits with a muscular spree of hypodermic melodies, oozy mucus noises and a delirious deluge of disconcerting electronic landscapes that erect a solid wall of brittle, metallic flakes of noise for the distorted vocals to dissolve against. 

Whereas this track carries that hectic, head spin of a moody McLusky headbutting Brit New Wave heavy metal swagger, its counterpart My Husband is about why those diary entries were even thought of. The narrator as the observer of the private viewing of their very punch-and-Judy show. Here – slower, stripped to near nakedness but all the more ominous because of those absent/intensely electric features; the bedroom becomes a torture chamber for innocence to become corrupted in. Anxiety as energy. Diegesis brutalised and accentuated by the constant humming of buzzsaws still revving away in the slaughterhouse. Incredible Cubbit riffage classically mangled and strangulated wraps up the dark disco thud in a branch of spikes. A ticking timebomb of a song that struts up and down the aisles of a young mind, unsuspecting in how the damage has been done decades after taking place. 

It ends on arguably the darkest moment of the album. To A Fault haunts the cavities of a confused head like Martin Hannett is practicing witchcraft microdosed on Joe Meek and dystopian fiction. It twists and turns with a propellant, skulking bass groove in steel toecaps. Guitars pierce and glisten like a trap made of shark teeth and frayed rope, fully engulfing us in the atmosphere that fills the lungs of the household. Lonesome vocals conclude it all. Spoken by Linger as though loitering in the subconscious desert of some pitied, pallid comatose abuse victim. A comatose that blows cold air on the bones; somehow uncovering catharsis often hard to come by when the details of the past as are tainted by the atrocities so potent they poke against the future.

With gritted teeth and clenched fists, with a thirst for new musical grooves and the completely compelling nature of just how DIY this band are; like the best batch often always are, this is the group’s rambunctious social commentary, their scorched, scrutinised detailing on how the popular opinions of a past gone mad has starved it’s public of what they deserve. It’s their concise yet wild reaction to what sort of future is surreptitiously unfolding around some suspicious corner. A future with a nosebleed included by a chronic migraine that squeezes the backs of the eyes like a rottweiler to the chewtoy. Rather than it being an album looking at the world at large and internalising all that shit; it puts to good use what can come out of intrapsychic investigations by looking in, letting rip, and externalise purgatory. 

How can we not be sucked into this world? The world of ‘peeling rain, fear again, waiting for the door to open’ – it’s surrealistic noir with a sonic equivalent. A palpitation of dynamics. A fearless experiment with their own formula and brutalised here for our amusement. 

This is by far the most exhilarating time to be a fan of the band. So much good stuff behind them. So many great things ahead.

This is Girls In Synthesis at their best. That is until the next album nudges us into another dimension.


Girls In Synthesis | Bandcamp | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube.

Main image Mr. Brno.

Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His archive for Louder Than War can be found online here.


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