Gilla Band: Most Normal - Don’t be fooled by the title: this album is gloriously out-there

Third album from the experimental Dublin quartet - who changed their name from Girl Band - features their best work yet

“There are no norms,” claimed the mysterious Portuguese author and poet Fernando Pessoa. “All people are exceptions to a rule that doesn’t exist.” Gilla Band don’t believe in the existence of rules, or conventional niceties such as melody and traditional verse-chorus-verse song structures. Despite titling their third studio album Most Normal, the Dublin group have delivered their most abnormal outing yet — although both albums to date released as Girl Band wouldn’t exactly be filed under easy listening.

Cultivating a penchant for noise not heard in an Irish band since My Bloody Valentine, early Therapy?, Whipping Boy, Rollerskate Skinny or The Fatima Mansions, the quartet raised plenty of puzzled eyebrows when they scooped the title of best Irish album of all time from this newspaper in 2020, beating all of the aforementioned acts and more. Perhaps an aghast Bono was forced to ponder the merits of The Talkies over the epochal Achtung Baby.

In ancient Irish, gilla describes a youth at an age to bear arms. Gilla Band weaponise their instruments, creating ferocious blasts of noise fused with elements of techno, hip-hop, experimental rock and a genuine sense of menace and danger along the lines of Richie Hawtin producing a raucous avant-rock band fronted by Salvador Dalí with a Dublin accent.

Dara Kiely’s vocals are often hilariously funny, dripping with Irish references from Arklow to Ryanair. He has acknowledged the influence of the surreal flights of fancy pioneered by comedians such as Eddie Izzard and Stewart Lee, plus the wordplay and sheer love of language abundant in the poetry of John Cooper Clarke.


A recurring absurdist theme appears to be sartorial matters, strongly hinted at in titles like Binliner Fashion and Red Polo Neck. “I spent all my money on shit clothes,” Kiely repeatedly intones on Eight Fivers, which also namechecks Debenhams, Spar, Unique, Lidl and Aldi, while not exactly offering a glowing endorsement for any of these establishments. “It was a big, shameful thing growing up, not being able to afford the look I wanted and having to wear all my brother’s old clothes”, Kiely recently reflected on receiving hand-me-downs.

Most Normal is full of noisy surprises ambushing and catching the listener off-guard. The beauty of this band is that you never can quite figure out how they construct their sound. Nothing is predictable or safe. In a sterile and sanitised age where overproduction is ubiquitous, this album is another cause for celebration.

It’s been a strange and winding road for Gilla Band during their first decade, where they’ve faced mental health challenges and accusations of misgendering. They’re already the finest live band in the country. Most Normal proves they are also the best in the studio.

Gilla Band
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Artist: More Normal
Genre: Experimental
Label: Rough Trade

Éamon Sweeney

Éamon Sweeney, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about music and culture