“Please don’t leave me alone/Staring out the window/I know I should get out of the house/Make myself useful,” sings Ellie Rose Davies during the meandering Anxiety Feels.
While the stone-faced diatribes that Davies and lead singer/guitarist Lottie Pendlebury delivered on Goat Goat‘s self-titled debut album fascinated, on the band’s stirring ambitious follow-up, On All Fours, there’s a new fragility that unravels slowly.
Where their debut contained socio-political scrapbook sketches not limited to the desires of caving in the heads of creeps on trains, with On All Fours the edgy nihilism doesn’t exactly contain the same bluster. Instead it slowly draws you into a paranoid grip.
Goat Girl’s languid countrified gothic jams still remain during On All Fours. Where Goat Girl was sonically scraped from the bone, here there’s a bit more meat on it, in the way of electronic embellishments (Badibaba, Jazz (In The Supermarket)). These developments aren’t always a good recipe and often lead to disaster.
Not here, though. The balance is striking, for this is still very much the Goat Girl that piqued our interests in 2018. The arrangements remain sparse, elastic-like but now added with an ethereal touch. A lockdown soundtrack to lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling through a haze of cigarette smoke. Don’t tell the landlord, though.
It’s not just the band’s expansion of sound that proves ambitious with On All Fours, but the album’s length, too. Clocking in at just under 56 minutes, few modern day artists attempt to hold their audience captive for so long. It’s yet another example that Goat Girl don’t play by the rules and here they utilise it to good effect.
Opener, Pest contains a riff that you think you’ve heard many moons ago. “Words remain in the suits of today/And I have no shame when I say step the fuck away,” spits Pendlebury in trademark deadpan fashion. It’s straight out of the Goat Girl scrapbook and with it the band come bounding out of the gates.
With Rosy Jones‘ skittish drums and chiselled instrumentation that creeps then swells, Once Again is the sound of demented country blues and twee-pop merging into something that Goat Girl could very well call their own.
“PTSD from a hot cup of tea,” snorts Pendlebury at the beginning of P.T.S.Tea – a warped twangy number that’s playful in sound but lyrically venomous, inspired by yet another public transport commuter, much like Creep.
Sub-consciously, socio-political themes have always been a strong thread to Goat Girl‘s patchwork and while climate change is an issue many haven’t had the mental bandwidth to tackle during the pandemic, Goat Girl don’t skirt around it with The Crack. The song a dreadful portrait of people escaping the clutches of erosion for clean open spaces. It’s told in a way that reminds us of the attitude dispensed by X-Ray Spex.
The woozy kraut-rock waltz of Sad Cowboy, the swirling gale of Closing By and the elusive scorn of They Bite On You all showcase the new sonic magnitudes of the London four-piece. It’s Goat Girl actually fucking dream-gazing and the results are equally surprising and brilliant.
Where Do We Go From Here rivals They Bite On You as Goat Girl’s finest moment. Here, the band truly captures what they have set out to do, both in theme and sound, delivering the perfect marriage between ambience and frozen-eyed goth-rock. “I’m sure it stinks under his skin/Where pores secrete all the hate from within,” sings Pendlebury – a withering assessment of our current Prime Minister.
While Goat Girl was a very solid debut, admittedly, there was an air of flash-in-the-pan about Goat Girl. You sensed that if they hailed from elsewhere in the country then they wouldn’t have gained the same traction.
For those of us outside of London, anyway, if Goat Girl failed to dispel the cynical notion of breaking that fourth wall of acceptance where London-centric artists are concerned, then there’s no doubt that On All Fours will. It establishes Goat Girl as very much the real deal.
On All Fours is out now via Rough Trade. Purchase from Bandcamp.