Girlboy Girl: Forget the Ladder, Climb the Wall

Girlboy Girl
Forget the Ladder, Climb the Wall

We spent about a million years recording and re-recording our second LP and would surely have disappeared up our own asses if it wasn’t for the excellence of the tunes we were working on…
— From Girlboy Girl’s bio on their official website

While the great Velvet Underground may have been responsible for a lot of kids picking up their guitars and writing and recording some tunes, I would have to say that they cannot be responsible for indie twee pop. Sure, a lot of twee groups have that razor-thin jangle of Lou Reed’s Velvet guitar, but the rhythm isn’t there. And most importantly, the attitude isn’t there. For if there was anything that really made the Velvets as important as they are aside from the great songwriting, it was certainly their attitude. The whole thing of coming in the late ’60s with that sound and those songs and basically giving a fuck you to the radio, the grimy San Francisco psychedelic scene, and ultimately to the New York fans was very much part of the Velvet aesthetic that is completely lost on so many other groups that claim to be influenced by them.

So twee must come from someplace else, wherever that might be. In Girlboy Girl’s case, it’s from Bristol, England. Having ingested this album as much as I needed to in order to write this review, I can safely say that this band didn’t leave much of an impression on me past this disc’s first two tracks, and they probably won’t do much for your ears either. In a nutshell, the whole affair is forgettable and if this band actually thinks it felt like a million years preparing it, all I can say is quit now.

An album like Forget the Ladder, Climb the Wall could be knocked out by the least talented twelve-year-olds in their sleep. And yes, sure, go ahead and put a bunch of monkeys in a room and give them instruments. Whatever they might come up with would undoubtedly be heralded as avant-garde brilliance compared to the vacuous sounds of Girlboy Girl. If they were indeed trying their hardest, they needn’t have tried at all.

Their vocal sound is split between Paula Knight and Rupert Taylor. Knight is fair enough, but Taylor should have just kept quiet. And when the two sing together, as on the aptly-titled “Trying”, things seriously begin to fall apart. It’s enough to make one hit the stop button as soon as possible. Granted, these days a lot of people can’t very well sing, but when tone deaf Taylor mixes it with Knight, it’s almost unbearable.

Musically, this stuff is pretty light. The first tune, “Don’t Shout”, pretty much takes its musical cues more from Galaxie 500 doing their take on the Velvet Underground and then watered down some more than directly from the VU itself. The thin guitars, the spare drumming, and the elementary bass make one think that this music never really got past the demo stages. On “Starting To Peel”, Taylor sounds a bit like Ray Davies circa Something Else and “Waterloo Sunset” specifically in his phrasing, but that’s still not enough to keep this fluff afloat.

Other tunes try to get a bit edgier with the electric buzz, such as “Night Song”, but the tempo is so slow that it sabotages itself. “Radiator” verges on an almost early Cure-esque type of sound mixed with some strangely Scottish under currents, and is highly annoying straight out of the gate. Is there anything that Girlboy Girl can do well? The answer, it seems, would be “no”, and a loud “no” at that. Seeing how it took them forever to record this album to follow up their debut, let’s hope that it takes even longer for a third installment. Hopefully by that time, Girlboy Girl will have gotten some fresh ideas. If not, then there’s no hope at all for this group.