Girl Friday: Androgynous Mary – album review

Review by Tony Rounce

And still those great new records come.

This one’s come all the way from the City Of Angels, and the journey from there to wherever you are has been more than merely worthwhile. Girl Friday might not be completely new to you, but they will be for most. The 10 songs that make up their most excellent debut LP will ensure that’s not going to be the case for much longer.

Having previously put out two EPs since the end of 2017 – the first with a line up that features only two members of the current one, group founders Libby Hsieh and Vera Ellen – the quartet has now expanded its extended play activities to a debut full length LP. It’s not exactly arriving hot on the heels June 2019’s ‘’Fashion Conman’, but good things always come to those who wait, and you may be assured that “Androgynous Mary” is well worth waiting for. The present line up of GF was only a matter of months old when they recorded ‘Fashion Conman’, and it’s very easy to hear, right from the off, that they have made great strides as a cohesive unit in the 14 months they have been together.

The four tracks you can currently listen to on Bandcamp provide a good cross section of what can soon be heard across the album’s ten selections. Their press release describes GF’s songs as “ferocious and knotty” and that does actually sum them up somewhat succinctly.   To illustrate, the dreamy, low key ‘knotty’ shimmer of ‘This Is Not The Indie Rock I Signed Up For’ (one of THE great titles of 2020!) and the ‘ferocious’, punch-the-air anthemic rocker ‘Earthquake’ are two sides of a highly desirable coin and between them they give an instant impression of what else to expect across the other eight tracks.  GF are strong on melody and also on clear harmonies, their lyrics sometimes obtuse but counterpointed by the strength of the musicianship in Hsieh and Ellen’s full-blooded guitar and bass respectively. 

The big sonic soundscapes offered by the production give the group plenty of space across which to express their words. Echoey, jangly guitars mesh with a solid bed of bass that anchors well with Virginia Pettis’ simple, strident drumming and second guitarist Sierra Scott’s melodically-on-point extra strumming.  Being from the West Coast, the temptation to compare with their spiritual ancestors the Go Go’s and the Bangles is hard to resist, but even if their music follows a different path they are most certainly spiritually linked.

These ears can hear (some doubtless completely coincidental) similarities to the very early Cure, in the way that the bass and drums drive the music almost as much as the guitars do. If you want a more contemporary comparison, the wonderful (and much missed) Suggested Friends offer a similar blend of melody, harmony and musical power. That’s not to say that Girl Friday are anyone’s soundalikes, but as reference points go that’s not a bad quartet of ‘if you like those, you’ll like these’ names to drop.

“Androgynous Mary” is a highly accomplished album that has already earmarked itself as a likely contender for next year’s Hercury Prize (it’s arrived just too late for consideration for this year’s…).  Its ten songs amount to almost a year’s worth of activity on the part of a band that, by its own admission, have “been through a lot together and have come through it by sticking together and loving each other regardless” according to Ellen.  The songs may mostly be personal and introspective for the group, but they are all extremely accessible for those of us who do not have intimate access to Girl Friday’s personal world. ‘Rouncey’s recommendation’ doesn’t come much higher than it does here.

Androgynous Mary is out today on Hardly Art records in all formats, to be followed by live shows as soon as we can all go out and enjoy them again.

You can follow Girl Friday musically on Bandcamp and on Facebook

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