Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

September Girls deliver a ferocious political statement on their indignant second record

"Age of Indignation"

Release date: 08 April 2016
September Girls Ageof Indignation
08 April 2016, 19:00 Written by Joe Goggins
When September Girls put out their debut full-length in the traditional release graveyard of January a couple of years back, there was a real self-assurance about it.

The aesthetic was clearly well in place, anyway, with walls of reverb, washed-out vocals, and melodic guitars plucked straight from The Velvet Underground. The Dubliners were hardly reinventing the wheel, or even offering anything particularly novel to a market already well saturated with sonic palettes of that kind, but there was a verve to the way in which they pulled it off that meant Cursing the Sea still lingered in the memory by the time the end-of-year lists were being constructed, a feat requiring a fair bit of staying power these days.

What it didn’t have, though, was a great deal of substance. The lyrics were hard to decipher beneath a veritable ocean of feedback, and what you could make out seemed more or less in line with the Gothic gloom that was the album’s calling card - angsty, but indistinct. The title of this second LP, Age of Indignation, hints at something altogether more pointed being on the cards and, sure enough, September Girls have traded a general sense of discontent for a battery of concise political statements, delivered with laser-guided precision.

Despite the fact that the world seems to have been locked in an increasingly-depressing downwards spiral in just about every way imaginable these past few years, bands that are willing to tackle the issues of the day in their songwriting remain as rare as rocking horse shit. When I interviewed Billy Bragg about three years ago, and asked him the question he doubtless gets the most (“where are all the political songwriters these days?”), his response - that Ed Sheeran’s drug abuse-themed “The A Team” proves there’s still a mainstream appetite for politics in music - sounded pretty desperate. Here in the UK, the advertising for the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 general election was set to the strains of The xx, a band far removed from the bleakness of the present political landscape in more ways than one. It takes a certain bravery to approach these topics head-on these days, partly because you risk being pigeonholed and partly because people are turning to music for escapism, not catharsis.

Age of Indignation, though, makes a compelling case for the latter. It rumbles with anger throughout, and you get the impression that letting off some serious steam is the most exhilarating route September Girls could have taken. It helps thread together the thematic touchpoints, which are varied; “Jaw on the Floor”, all doomy keyboard lines and menacing guitars, puts a feminist spin on the Easter Rising, whilst the frantic “Catholic Guilt” lays into the Church’s disproportionate influence on social policy in Ireland over the top of guitar lines that threaten to come off the tracks at any minute.

There’s some divergence from the sound of Cursing the Sea, too; the mood is as dark, if not darker, than last time out, but the bluesy roll of the guitars on the title track - a scything takedown of the special kind of narcissism bred by social media - are a new development, as is the ominous slow-burn of opener “Ghost”. More often than not, Age of Indignation has the vocals front and centre, crisp and sharp where they were so murky on their debut, but there’s still a keen sense of how reverb and out-and-out noise can build atmosphere; the band spent time on the road opening for A Place to Bury Strangers last year, and the New Yorkers’ savage approach to the volume dial seems to have rubbed off, particularly on the album’s punishing first half (on which Strangers’ Oliver Ackermann actually appears, on “Jaw on the Floor”.)

Age of Indignation represents a bold step forwards for September Girls; they’ve cast off the enigmatic presence that defined their first record for something considerably more clear-eyed and, ultimately, quite a bit riskier. They’re much more endearing for it, though, and have made a record that actually sounds urgent, vital and dissatisfied enough to obviously be one of 2016’s children. By letting their political frustration run away with them, they’ve carved out their own identity and worn it on their sleeves; the results are engrossing.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next