U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls


Half Free, Meghan Remy’s first album on 4AD, bubbled under the surface last year, never quite reaching the end-of-year lists but still capturing the attention of a new audience; including myself. This release might also go some way to explaining the packed house in the Deaf Institute, although throughout tonight’s set the fans show themselves to be as loyal to her older stuff as the cuts from her new album.

Her most recent album though is fiercely narrative, with Meghan taking on the voice of different female characters throughout – the one who lost her husband at war, the one who’s unhappily married to a husband that sleeps with her sisters and the one addicted to plastic surgery – all through a feminist perspective.

That feminism is immediately apparent tonight when Meghan appears with her backing singer/bandmate Amanda Crist. They cut intimidating figures, dressed in all black with high heels that soon pound into the floor in rhythm with the doom-laden drum beats that often lay under their sad tales of women yet to be cut from the crippling ties of patriarchy. Both are also clearly unafraid to show their bodies, with Meghan wearing a dress that she pulls up to her waist frequently and Amanda dressed in a boiler suit zipped down to near her stomach with just her bra underneath.

Just as bare tonight is the instrumentation, with Meghan leaning over a deck of samplers and tape machines as she plays out the backing track to tonight’s first song ‘Window Shades.’ Free of instruments, this minimalist approach allows the two women to dominate the stage dancing in synchronised fashion and getting the crowd to follow in suit. With little to analyse in terms of instrumentation, what immediately strikes me through this and the next song ‘Damn That Valley’ is the quality of Meghan’s voice that is undoubtedly American but with a scouse-like bite, not unlike Cilla Black, that allows her to snarl powerfully through songs.

Interaction is kept to a minimum as the intervals between songs are made up of snatches from other songs and polemic political speeches; the most powerful of which is one about the youth’s distaste for capitalism that sounds out at the end of ‘Sororal Feelings.’ These samples add a unique flavour to the evening and like a DJ set, build more excitement for when the next song starts to eek out from Meghan’s black boxes above the political speeches.

This works most potently when the cartwheeling synths and dub-like drums of ‘New Age Thriller’ overpowers one of these samples throwing the room into a furore. Halfway through the song, Amanda, the backing singer/bandmate, turns around as if entranced and stamps the wooden floor of the Deaf Institute while whipping her microphone wire with sheer aggression. While naysayers will say that tonight could have done with more of a live element, this moment from Amanda, like much of tonight, was dominating and haunting. A performance of intense power.

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Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.