Photo Credit: Holly Whitaker
On their second full-length album (and first since 2018), London band Goat Girl offer up what could probably be best described as ambient pop punk. Or, possibly “dream pop punk”? Almost all of the lucky thirteen songs that comprise On All Fours scream about as loud as a song can scream while retaining a level of quiet that is just barely above silence. Yet nearly every song is appealingly uptempo and – in one way or another – catchy, making the overall listen of the album gratifying, if a bit challenging.
Creative stage names are another part of their dichotomy, as the band apparently consists of (are you ready?): lead singer and guitarist Clottie Cream, guitarist L.E.D., bassist Holy Hole and drummer Rosey Bones. But once you get past this, Goat Girl is undeniably serious. Cream (real name: Lottie Pendlebury) has a solid, comforting and overall pleasant vocal style, even if her approach, coupled with the way the album is mixed, make any lyrics difficult to fully grasp, at least on the first couple of listens. For example, it takes a moment to figure out that “Jazz (in the Supermarket)” is mostly an instrumental-based track in which the lyrics are comprised entirely of “Oh-oh // Whoa-oh” (although if it turns out the title is a reference to the Clash’s classic “Lost in the Supermarket”, we’ll let just about anything slide).
Goat Girl are obviously trying to convey just a bit more than just “Oh-oh // Whoa-oh,” as suggested by titles like “They Bite on You”, “Where Do We Go From Here?” and “Anxiety Feels” (“Why do I hold my breath? // It doesn’t last forever // Words taken from my lips // Play somewhere cluttered”). It’s possible that Goat Girl are hoping to convey the idea that many deep emotions still struggle to be heard (much less understood) even after they’ve been given a platform, even one as seemingly prolific as being in a rock band signed to an influential indie label like Rough Trade. Musically, there’s plenty to like on On All Fours, including several cuts that sort of jack-in-the-box by picking up the tempo a bit of the way in. Holy Hole (real name: Holly Mullineaux) – a new addition to the band starting with this album – is possibly their strongest musical attribute, providing the solid basslines that drive many of the songs.
The band apparently takes its name from Goat Boy, a character created by comedian. No, not Jim Breuer (good guess, though), but rather the late Bill Hicks. However, they also share their name with “Goat Girl”, an obscure cut from Tanya Donnelly’s 1997 solo album Love Songs for Underdogs. The approach taken by Goat Girl versus that of female rockers in the ‘90s like Donnelly – and the bands she played in (Throwing Muses, the Breeders, Belly) – seems to be that Goat Girl uses almost tranquilizing subtlety as a weapon that no one saw coming.
All in all, Goat Girl don’t go from a whisper to a scream so much as their defining characteristic is a whisper that is a scream. But will music fans scream for All Four One? At just shy of an hour in length, this album may be yet another example of too much of a good thing. Still, “A-Men”, the album’s closer and actually its longest cut (a relatively modest five minutes and change), is an ideal curtain-dropper, with its hand-clap chorus which seems to tell the listener “we’ll see you next time.” Based on this album, there certainly will be a next time for Goat Girl.