Gaggle – From The Mouth of The Cave (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S been four years since Gaggle first formed in 2008 with the idea of putting a mass of women on-stage.
Since then, they’ve played their first gig at Club NME, Koko, been named as one of NME’s Top 50 Innovators, opened the French festival Trans Musicales, won Best New Band at Camden Crawl and recorded a Maida Vale session. Now, they’ve delivered their debut album, the curiosity piece From The Mouth of the Cave.
The result refuses to conform to easy pigeon-holing. It flits between genres offering a mix of sometimes sonorous and other times abrasive songs, all backed by multiple female vocals and Deborah Coughlin’s fierce direction.
How much you enjoy it depends largely on whether you need your music to conform to tried and tested formulas. For there’s a lot here that could just as easily annoy as impress… and it left me undecided a lot of the time and in spite of several listens.
In spite of this, Deborah describes the album as an intensely honest piece of song-writing in the way that it tells us their stories: whether it’s about trying to be powerful in a group (on former single Army of Birds), about being alienated (Lullaby), about economics (The Power of Money), or about leaving things that aren’t good for you (From the Mouth of the Cave).
Where it achieves this successfully, as in the kooky yet heartfelt Lullaby, it can be oddly charming… but when it gets things wrong, as in the Indian chanting and mass drumming of Congo, it’s a loud, dishevelled mess. You could even call it pretentious!
Overall, it’s a mixed bag. I liked the searing honesty and lyrical uncertainty of Liar (with its “how can I tell if my man’s a liar” central refrain), complete with its interwoven vocals and more conventional melodies, and the brooding bass-line and African-leaning delivery of Power of Money.
While the “oh oh, oh oh hey”s and minimalist beats of Army of Birds offers a fascinating and very different take on female empowerment, complete with one of the album’s most accessible choruses. Hello Spider also has a kind of breezy energy about it akin to listening to the similarly massed vocals and classic melodies of The Polyphonic Spree.
But the frenzied drum ‘n’ bass leanings of Gaslight, with its ‘woo hoo’ chorus, felt like more of a mess, Happy Is The Country lacked focus (for me) in spite of some interesting beat arrangements and Bang on The Drum, with its spaced out, minute-long intro, tested the patience before getting going. It needed to cut to the chase a little quicker.
Put together, the album does boast a certain curiosity value and has its moments. But given the length of time it has taken to put together, it fails to satisfy as a whole album.
Download picks: Liar, Power of Money, Army of Birds, Lullaby, Hello Spider