by Sean Fennell
If you’ve attended a good number of shows, specifically punk or punk-adjacent shows, you know you often have a decision to make. On the one hand, you can let go, give in to the thudding drums and pulsing guitars and dive headfirst into that spinning mess of bodies that is the mosh. Or, you can hang back, feel the music but not let it overtake you, nod your head, let the lyrics wash over you. There is no right way, most of us have been both people, depending on the night. Both are emotional experiences, equally rewarding, intertwined in the fabric of what makes music such a unique experience. It is within this internal push and pull that Church Girls’ new record The Haunt finds itself, working to balance the often contrary feeling that exists inside all of us, offering a frenetic mosh and introspective moment in equal measure.
This pendulum starts to swing right away with album opener “Nothing.” What begins as an assault of exacting, energetic drums from Julien Varnier is quickly met by Mariel Beaumont’s cutting vocals, hungry for a connection. This trend continues through much of the record, the drums and vocals soaring above, propelling the songs forward while the impressive guitar work slithers it's way through the grass below. It’s a dynamic that gives The Haunt a momentum, a pulse tracking the back and forth of four skilled musicians willing to give in to what serves the music best.
"What begins as an assault of exacting, energetic drums from Julien Varnier is quickly met by Mariel Beaumont’s cutting vocals, hungry for a connection."
This vacillation stays at the front of songwriting duo Beaumont and fellow guitarist Joseph Wright’s minds as well. Winding its way through the record is the idea of transience, of leaving and arriving, of finding hope in nihilism. Take “Florida,” which finds Beaumont stuck, triggered and wishing for better things. If only they can get out, miles from the titular “tourist town” and burn everything down, surely things will be better. It’s angry but practical and underlined wonderfully by a slicing guitar riff whose rising heart rate repetition eventually leads to the best breakdown on the record: a minute long wall of disjointed guitars providing all the release of leaving a toxic situation.
"Winding its way through the record is the idea of transience, of leaving and arriving, of finding hope in nihilism."
On the other end of the spectrum there’s “Could’ve Been,” a song of staying, even when you shouldn’t. Alongside rolling drums and needling guitar lines we have a story of a chance given and missed. “In this crumbling house where the walls are misshapen // you search and scour the place // find something for breaking,” sings Beaumont during the single’s refrain, describing a time, or a hundred times, when what “Could’ve Been” was sabotaged. It is cathartic to finally let how you really feel break through, even if it falls on deaf ears.
Whether it’s the promise of leaving, or the despair in having never left, we can all identify with Church Girls’ desire to loudly declare their presence. The Haunt invites you to connect with the crowd, whether it’s via a light shove against a friendly stranger, a head nod of recognition by the bar, or a sweaty mosh pit. We’re all looking for our equilibrium.
Church Girls is playing tonight at Johnny Brenda's with Trash Boy and Grocer. Check out the album here!!