M(h)aol - Attachment Styles (Album Review)

As a society, we still don't give enough credit to the power of angry songs. Instead, we tend to prize them for their fury, energy, and catharsis when listening to them - all of which are important - but we often underestimate the message behind the anger. The ten songs on M(h)aol's Attachment Styles - an album brimming with contained and uncontained anger - put their messages front and centre, letting the listener know exactly where the anger is directed.  

M(h)aol (which translates from Irish to 'bold') are a five-piece intersectional feminist band named after the 16th Century Irish pirate Gráinne Mhaol (a figure who has become something of a renewed feminist icon in modern-day Ireland). The band was formed in Dublin in 2014, with lead vocalist Róisín Nic Ghearailt saying in interviews that the band came about as a response to sexism and misogyny they all had to deal with in the local and national music scenes. 

These experiences are reflected in the songs on Attachment Styles. If nine years was a long time to wait to release their debut album, you get the sense that M(h)aol were keeping these songs in a pressure cooker for most of that time, only letting them out when they felt that they'd truly cut through. And they do. Every song on this album is angular, tough, important, and laced with cutting irony. Right from the get-go, from the opening lines and scuzzy guitars of 'Asking For It', you know precisely what M(h)aol are trying to say. They don't mince words. They're not here for wilful obscurity (which contrasts with many other post-punk bands in Ireland and the UK. We'll not name names). The song titles give everything away - "Bored of Men", "Bisexual Anxiety", "Period Sex" - while the lyrics are pared down to repeated refrains, rhetorical questions, graphic images, and rousing invocations. 

It's deceptively difficult to write and sing punk lyrics like this - where the lines repeat over and over - and for them to still feel hard-earned rather than trite. But M(h)aol's lyrics do feel hard-earned. For example, in "I'm so bored", they turn the chorus ("I'm so bored of talking about men/Look at the news, is it that time again?") into a kind of beautiful, towering, furious mantra. There's an element of humour here as well - you get the sense that every time a line is repeated in a M(h)aol song, it's being directed at a man who refuses to understand the word 'no' unless he's told something over and over again. 

Perhaps the most interesting song on the album is "Cowboy Honey". While the others boil, it simmers - with Róisín half-singing, half-speaking, as the percussion and simple chords provide space for sinister lyrics about gaslighting, negging, and control. 

Attachment Styles is a scorching, scalpel-sharp debut album which tackles sexual violence, feminism, sexuality, and psychosocial relationships with ironic anger.