Dublin’s September Girls are back with their second full-length album, Age of Indignation, and they’re angry. It’s the good kind of anger that translates into passionate garage rock, heavy on reverb and angst yet pretty because of the harmonized vocals. This all-female five-piece takes on subjects from feeling ignored to feminism to the Catholic church. And they get dark: the whole album has this sinister, goth sound, like these ladies make up a really cool coven of witches from Buffy the Vampire Slayer ready to cast some spells against those who have tried to oppress them. It matches the anger and frustration in the lyrics without resorting to Hole– or Bully-esque screaming; it’s like when your parents got mad at you, but maintained a calm voice that was even scarier than it would have been if they’d screamed.
This album has a really dark garage rock sound that incorporates surf rock riffs on “Jaw on the Floor” and Steppenwolf-esque organ-like keyboards on “Ghost.” Mostly, the songs are centered on guitars carrying the melody. “John of Gods” is driven by fast drumming that makes the war-themed song frantic. There are definite walls of sound that are strong enough to drown out the vocals on some of the songs, but it’s not quite at shoe gaze levels yet. Much of the album reminded me of Auf der Maur, though Melissa Auf der Maur’s vocals could always be clearly heard over her powerful guitars and bass. It’s unfortunate that the lyrics get overpowered, though, since they have a lot to say (as will be covered below.) They are able to do some cool things with the vocals, though: there are great harmonies throughout. There are low, probably male backing vocals on “Jaw on the Floor,” which gives an interesting dynamic given the feminist content of the vocals; it could be to signify that we can all be feminists.
If you’re going to cover vocals up with walls of reverb, is there even a reason to write meaningful lyrics? September Girls are covering up some good stuff here. “Jaw on the Floor” has some great lines like about past feminists who made big leaps who would likely be disappointed with the current climate. Fittingly, “Catholic Guilt” takes on the Catholic church and the control it has over society. “John of Gods” also takes an angle on religion. The personal is the political, and the Girls handle these broad societal issues alongside songs about more individualized (yet often universal) issues like being ignored on “Ghost” and being in a bad relationship you just can’t leave on “Quicksand.” There are modern problems, too: “Love No One” deals with the narcissism of social media while “Age of Indignation” was written after one of the members watched a documentary on how revenge porn can ruin lives. I especially loved “Wolves,” the slow-burning closing track. It stands out from the others with lots of synth and less anger. It presents this scenario where the singer is being hunted, but only so that the hunters can get to someone to whom she’s been romantically linked. She’s in too deep to run now even though the relationship is not what it once was. It has you inventing a narrative to make the song make sense: my imagined backstory is that she’s in a tired relationship with a drug dealer who crossed the wrong guy.
This album is angry and ear-pleasing at the same time. Since we’ve already gone back to the late ’90s with the Buffy reference, I’ll tell you that this is the album Daria Morgendorffer would be listening to now. September Girls are frustrated, smart, and talented and Age of Indignation shows it.