Review: M(h)aol – Attachment Styles
National Music Reviews
M(h)aol = LCD Soundsystem + Bikini Kill
M(h)aol is a band that doesn’t hold back. Their new album, Attachment Styles, is the Dublin band’s debut, and what a debut that is. With titles such as “Period Sex,” “Therapy” and “Asking For It,” this album doesn’t invite you in: It grabs you by the shirt collar and pushes you into a chair.
“Asking For It” is the first track, and while my cat was not a fan of the driving, pulsing beat, I certainly was. Whether it’s headbanging or full body thrashing, this track is one you can move to. M(h)aol imparts blunt annoyance into lyrics such as, “I know what they say about girls like me / I’m just the dumb bitch that left the party with you / I was asking for it.” But all nonchalance vanishes when the song explodes into outrage, bursting with scratchy guitar and static as lead singer Róisín Nic Ghearailt’s voice drapes itself over the top. For a song that’s just over two and half minutes, there’s a lot of emotional processing happening, and it’s a killer way to start off the album.
M(h)aol is a fan of repetition, and they wield it well; when there’s just enough of it to become familiar, the band throws in something unexpected. It’s in this avenue that “Nice Guys” gives “Asking For It” a serious run for its money as my favorite. The intro is personal, like she’s speaking to us directly from the stage. Our conversation is cut short by the pinpricks of synth that interrupt us (this is where the LCD Soundsystem comparison comes from). Ghearailt’s repeated and dramatic drawl of “Nice guys always finish last” comes in as great juxtaposition to the sharpness of the music. The sardonic delivery I’ve come to define M(h)aol with peaks in “Nice Guys,” speaking to the larger emotional masquerade women and feminine people often do just to survive the everyday. “Nice Guys” is the eyeroll in the face of a catcall, with bursts of chaos that perfectly speak to the intensity of suppressed emotions. Damn, M(h)aol.
Much of Attachment Styles sounds similar, but the two notable exceptions on the album are incredibly engaging. In “Bisexual Anxiety,” Ghearailt is speaking directly to us in something akin to spoken word poetry, revealing her complex feelings about her bisexual identity. The “fluid, ambiguous, subversive” lens she sees herself through is mimicked by the abstract noise in the background. The backing music doesn’t take away from Ghearailt’s delivery but enhances it.
“Cowboy Honey” is unique from the other tracks in its smoothness. It’s still got a driving beat, but a much softer one. Ghearailt’s voice is the closest to singing it’s been all album, and the lyrics are much more dreary. Gone is sardonic, cheeky delivery; Gone even is anger. What’s left is murmuring reflection of why Ghearailt “turn[ed] out this way.” It’s the second longest track on the album, and the last 1:30 is dedicated to an eerie soundscape, almost like the sounds you get when plucking an unplugged electric guitar. It’s creepy, weird and an unsettling end to a song devoid of M(h)aol’s signature, upbeat style.
Despite a few critiques, Attachment Styles is definitely still an exciting way to spice up your punk and post-punk listening. It’s a solid first foray as a debut, and I have no doubt M(h)aol’s next release will be even stronger. –Alexis Perno
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