Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Gilla Band – Sports Day Review

Sports day was a horrendous time of year. What a horror show that was when the schooling equivalent of physical activity was sprinting from one end of a dry field to the other with an egg or, in the case of one school, a cup of water with a hole in the bottom. Articulation of falsified challenge is horrid, but Gilla Band have turned the demeaning label of sports day into this, Sports Day. An incredible krautrock-driven stunner that engages its rise and powerful volume increase, the sharp tones and scratching, alienating electronics that cocoon vocalist Dara Kiely. A classy little punch of B-Side consistency gives Sports Day a free and loose charm, an extra release on the side of their Eight Fivers presentation. 

Experimental rock takes another step toward angsty horrors with the Dublin rockers pushing for droning electronics that give way toward the end of a barely intelligible track. Part of the fun comes from the glitchiest observances. Unintelligible vocals or whatever meaning they could hold are not the point here but the noise and collection of instruments, the brooding intensity and the consistent thumps underscoring it all are the real focus. Choice or not, the lyrics are lost under the waves of oppressive brutality, and while that does work for much of it, it would be nice to hear what Kiely has for his listeners. Why focus on what cannot be heard though, especially when Sports Day takes from fields of electronica and marches them forward with gutsy intent? 

Sparks of interplay and inspiration come through on this B-Side piece, namely from the darker days of Depeche Mode and their Playing the Angel record. They have at least taken a step back from Merchcore, which borders on power noise but does not have the commitment for it. Sports Day strikes out at someone out there, someone terrible at football and poking their nose backstage at flimsy rock concerts. A double blow to fans of surface-level music and those that ride the wave of past glories, sports day is at the core of that harshness, of the people still snogging those participation trophies as actual achievements while the rest of the world moves on. Sports Day is a noisy bit of indifference but the more its message is thought on, the better it gets. It is a track that has meaning behind it, the psychosis breakdown and the meddling drone tones are a treat. 

Where it is hard to consider stomaching listen after listen, a shuffle of the playlist throwing out this would be a jolt to the system and a questionable glance from those who trusted you with the AUX cable, it is best to enjoy Gilla Band alone. There is no embarrassment in blasting them loud, but it is an isolated experience. Sports Day is something to consider in your own time, on your own. Too much talk about The Beatles, which they warn of toward the end. Too much talk of anything is a meddlesome way. Five hundred words on a B-Side track? Too much talk. But that’s what happens when you’re not good at football.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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