Album Review: Goat Girl – On All Fours (Rough Trade)
In late 2016, with cheap weed and good company, I went to see a two small London based rock bands that would go on to create a couple of the best albums of the last half decade. The funny thing is at the time the sentence I just wrote would have sounded ridiculous. Not because either band lacked, well, anything, but because of the humble circumstances in which the gig took place, especially for then virtually unknown support band Goat Girl (Yak headlined) who played to a maximum of fifty people, with the crowd size depending on how many gig goers fancied a fag at any given time. Even after the gig, as much as you couldn’t help but take note of how good they were, it seemed to be the ramblings of a mad man to predict where they would go from there and I proceeded to almost forget about them.
Then in 2018 they came crashing back into my consciousness when they produced one of the albums of the year, their self-titled debut. Straight away I knew where I had heard their unique mix of punchy post punk poignancy and dreamlike otherworldliness akin to reading the Bhagavad Gita in a sensory deprivation tank. Now less than three years later it should surprise no one that they’ve undoubtedly done it again.
On All Fours sounds like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly fucked (not made love to) Blade Runner and the resulting child was given to Maya Angelou to bring up. It seems almost futile to try and compare them sonically to another band because that’s just not what I get out of listening to Goat Girl, the feeling is always cinematic. There’s the vastness of a big budget epic but it’s grounded by the mix and instrumentation that never feels like it’s trying. With that almost always comes lyrics that get in your head like a hard-hitting documentary mixed with an old David Lynch film (“That’s fucked! But what the fuck?”).
With the opener, Pest, you immediately know you have got Goat Girl at their best. Serving as a sort of ‘Ode to a cunt’ the song sums it self up perfectly with the line “I have no shame when I say step the fuck away” in fact those 11 words feel like the perfect microcosm of Goat Girl, unapologetic and for good reason. Instrumentally it doesn’t step out of line from what I described earlier, with the lyrics serving as the knife that feels so much sharper because of its juxtapose to the dreamy guitars and synths. Badibaba follows and opens with a bassline that reminds me of Throw Me A Bone from their debut. However, Badibaba builds with synths and a nonsensical, repetitive chorus (no prizes for guessing what the word is) that feels beautifully hypnotic and like something that could’ve never appeared on their debut, because Goat Girl, and the world, weren’t ready yet.
Jazz (In the Supermarket) is up next and feels to me like a wink to their handful of short soundscapes that appeared on their first album. An instrumental that keeps the listener engaged for the duration, the bass is at its best here and the odd vocal line bleeds perfectly into the track preventing it from feeling like album filler, in fact elevating it to a high point that you will want to revisit. The drum mix on this track is sublime, to be fair it pretty much keeps the same level across all 13 tracks but it is most recognisable at this point, especially as it bleeds into track four, Once Again, the intro of which reminds me of Tiña track Golden Rope, with a semi-gallop that gets the listener hooked. The ending refrain of “they used to call my name, but now it’s not the same” Is a haunting reminder of how fleeting fame can destroy a person and rounds off another high point of the album, without even being half way through.
P.T.S.Tea follows, with a nursery rhyme simplicity and close to childlike vocal delivery to it that gets it stuck in your head, to your glee. The vocal melodies blend in trademark Goat Girl fashion as the song marches to its end and feeds into Sad Cowboy, the first single Goat Girl released for the album and unsurprisingly another highlight. This really does have a spaghetti western feel and could serve as the soundtrack to The Ugly forcing Clint Eastwood to walk the desert until he collapses, covered in blisters. However, a synth solo pulls you out of this Sergio Leonne world and back to the dreamy world Goat Girl have created. The vocal mix and lyrics are easily some of the best on the album, cutting through the already layered instrumental and begging to be sung.
The second single to be released is up next and tells a story all too close to home of a dying earth and the all too real possibility that even if we were to leave and find a new planet some cunt with too much fake tan would probably just fuck it up so what’s the point? The Crack, with its grunge-eque quiet-loud structure is one that, when (if) live gigs happen again will be a fan favourite but still serves as a poignant warning of the inevitability of the future.
Track 8, Closing In, is delivered with the same moody-cool that Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy exude in their side shuffle in the weed smoking montage of The Breakfast Club and explodes into a party track for all the world with its whispers of Remain In Light instrumentation.
Anxiety Feels, starting with “I don’t wanna be on those pills”, serves as a sonic anti-depressant with its laidback rhythm and beautifully clean guitar lines. This paired with lyrics, that feel way too close to home within the mental health crisis that we are facing at the moment, at least lets you know that what your feeling is normal. They Bite On You, the next track, feels like it’s from a very similar place both sonically and lyrically, possessing an almost melancholic reassurance.
Bang, track 11, sonically feels like you are now pulling yourself out of the hole you were just in and highlights just how well this track list is put together. Each song feeds into the next so well that it can nearly pass off as a Tubular Bells-esque 45+ minute track. Where Do We Go starts off with an almost clean sounding bassline and vocals that seem to waltz between it until exploding into yet more trademark Goat Girl chanting. This then rinses and repeats to great effect, I mean it certainly isn’t broke and Goat Girl seem to have no plans of trying to fix it. “Where do we go from here?” is repeated at the end in what almost feels like an admission of creative burnout. However, the listener doesn’t have to fear because it is followed up straight away by final track A-Men, which truly feels like the afterglow of the whole album. Again, Goat Girl create an instrumental that fits so well into their world, showcasing the absolute, unfaltering understanding they have of themselves. Guitar lines dance in and out of the song seemingly as they please and it all ends just as peacefully as you have come to expect.
If Blanketman were my surprise of the year On All Fours is comfortably the most predictable thing to happen, both musically and other, in the past 10 months. I don’t think anyone was expecting anything less and yet with all that expectation Goat Girl still deliver what will be one of the best albums of 2021. From next week: What are you even doing still reading this? Go and listen to it. Go! This isn’t the fucking end of Ferris Bueller, stop living in a world where you haven’t heard this album.
On All Fours is released via Rough Trade Records on Friday Jan 29.