Friday, 9 November 2018
Girls In Synthesis - Fan The Flames (Review By Stefan Ball)
I played the title track from London band Girls In Synthesis' on a recent Just Some Punk Songs show (it went down a storm with the chatroom folk) and was readying to post it on here when I noticed Who Killed Nancy Johnson? (https://wknancyj.bandcamp.com/) frontman Stefan Ball was going to see them in Oxford so I asked him if he'd like to combine a gig/ep review. Happily he was up for it and so I'll pass you over to him...
Fan the Flames by Girls in Synthesis
Self-released - released 10th November 2018
£4 digital on Bandcamp; 7" limited edition vinyl already sold out in presales
I saw Girls in Synthesis for the first time last night, at The Library pub in Oxford. The Library's gig room is a postage-stamp basement with a black and white tiled floor. The ceiling is low. There's no stage, just a space at the back for the band, who are hemmed in nose-to-nose with the audience. It gets intense in there, dark and loud, and with the right band playing it's a killer venue.
Girls in Synthesis were the right band. Their music is dense, hypnotic, claustrophobic, unnerving. The lyrics are political, existential, delivered with venom. And the gig itself, as a performance, was wonderful - so well put together. They made the venue darker by turning off the main "ordinary room" lighting at the band end so that they and we were lit by nothing but a couple of red bulbs. They started with the two mic stands - one for Jim on guitar, one for John on bass - set up side on and crossed, so that they were singing and shouting right in each other's faces. Songs ran together with a few spoken lines or noises to link them - they didn't stop to tune up or chat once - and at any moment there was sudden movement - Jim doing a kind of demented Chuck Berry duckwalk, John laid out full length and face down at our feet still playing, mic stands planted like flags in the audience.
"Fan the Flames", title track of their new EP, is a perfect example of their sound. It starts with feedback and ends with an echo over more feedback - noise is a big thing for this band. When the guitar comes in the sound is melodic at first, almost smooth, but under it is a brutal bass line, and drummer Nicole pounds out a simple furious beat that sounds as unforgiving as a steam hammer.
John sings the verses, Jim takes over on the choruses - "they fan the flames, they watch them grow, they drop the shit, on those below". And as those lines suggest, this is a political song. But it isn't just about "them" and how bad "they" are - it's more about the way the system we live in "causes grief and hate", because "it's power that corrupts" and "perfect are we none, we fall - we all fall". We can become "them" - the exploited becoming exploiters.
Comparisons to other artists? - being an old man I naturally think first of Wire, Gang of Four, even the more bass-driven and harder songs on The Stranglers' first few albums. Certainly they're anchored in that late-1970s early 1980s group of UK bands that were angry, angular, political and fiercely intelligent. Everything from the structure of this song to the way the lyrics work to the way the two voices interact sounds absolutely like they meant it, and planned it.
Buy the record, go see them.
This is Fan The Flames...