Thursday 21 March 2024

Girl Arm - Outside Language

Labels: Self-Released/Zegema Beach Records

Formats: 12" Lathe/Tape/Digital

Release Date: 21 June 2012


1. Jetsons

2. Year Of The Walrus

3. Molto Erotico

4. Crimean Crimes

5. Disappears

6. Jacques Tits

7. Elephants

8. Health And Safety

It's taken me way too long to write about Girl Arm and their album Outside Language, which was initially brought to my attention because Dave Norman's label Tomb Tree, an offshoot of Zegema Beach Records, released a tape by a band called Works in 2022.. This review forms part of my ongoing ZBR roster review series, though Girl Arm's beginnings go back much further than the 2018 Tape/2022 Lathe releases from the label. Canada's Girl Arm originally self-released this album digitally back in 2012. They changed their name to Works in 2022 and thus we've come full circle.

I think math rock is severely underrated to be honest. I know It’s a broad spectrum but it rules. Girl Arm did it brilliantly on Outside Language, channelling their technical noise rock through a narrow canal crafted by the likes of At The Drive-In, The Fall Of Troy and many others on opener ‘Jetsons’. Girl Arm’s musicality and clear vocal approach dispels any notion of outright violent heaviness being a thing here.

The repetitive opening bars of ‘Year Of The Walrus’ give way to a song that’s brimming with off-kilter yet layered instrumentation. The vocals sit deeper in the mix and at times the whole togetherness of the band merges into some kind of warped funk. It makes me think about how Red Hot Chilli Peppers would sound if they weren’t shit (unpopular opinion warning). Obviously for the most part, Girl Arm sound nothing like RHCP and their personalities shine through brightly.

‘Molto Erotico’ is a short, ambient interlude relying on gentle guitar and feedback to build atmosphere before ‘Crimean Crimes’  follows after the briefest of pauses, building with an emphatic instrumental first-half, followed by a latter-half that threatens to cross over into SeeYouSpaceCowboy sass without the panic chords. 

At this point I really need to try to stop dropping comparisons and instead heap praise on what Girl Arm created. ‘Disappears’ is an uplifting mix of math and noise rock, delivered in a way that’s unique to Canadian bands. I guess that’s why so many of them standout amongst their US cousins, just like how bands from Finland are on a different plain to the rest of Scandinavia (I my opinion).

The curiously named ‘Jacques Tits’ conjures up many images but I’m guessing there’s a humorous story to go along with it, otherwise what’s the point of such obscurity. Either way, it’s another super enjoyable song that brims with virtuoso performances throughout. I think by now you know what’s expected from Girl Arm if you haven’t heard their music before. 

Penultimate song ‘Elephants’ is Girl Arm’s heaviest on the album due to the addition of more dissonant guitar work and multi-vocals that are both clean and harsh. Closer ‘Health And Safety’ starts out quite sedate but as it progresses, there’s a lot more extremity at play. So much so that it ends up being the most chaotic song on the album. 

Once again, discovering an album (in this case from twelve years ago) by a band that still exists today, albeit in a different form is kind of what this is all about. If I hadn’t heard about Works, I wouldn’t have known about Girl Arm. That’s the power of community on this here world-wide-web. What a time to be alive!

You can stream and purchase Outside Language digitally via Girl Arm's bandcamp page below:-

Girl Arm - / Works -

All copies of this release from ZBR are sold out.

Zegema Beach Records -

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