By Zhenzhen Yu
On their sophomore LP, Goat Girl returns with a sound that surprisingly deviates from the original punk blues of their self-titled debut, but settles in wonderfully with a swirl of easy, synth-studded neo-psychedelia and smooth indie rock. Compared to the freneticism and urgency of 2018’s Goat Girl (which boasted a score of songs that clocked in at under 2 minutes long), On All Fours’ luxurious opener “Pest” abruptly takes you into a gentler, meditative climate, and the pace is effortlessly maintained for the rest of the mellow album. There are still sprinklings of the group’s punk origins, with a distinctly dark bite of post-punk marrow — for example, “Sad Cowboy” opens with a starry synthpop cascade, before dipping into a swaggering, laidback punk swing, and “The Crack” is a quick-paced banger with the quiet anxiety bubbling beneath the skin — but, for the most part, the record takes the five-piece into an entirely new (and just as original) direction.
Throughout On All Fours, frontwoman Clottie Cream’s performance is exemplary, and easily complements the style of the record, a swirl of expansive art rock and psychedelia precisely outlining her deep, temperate voice. She shines on every track she leads, whether it’s through her tip-toed, measured enunciation of each word on “Once Again” (“Stuck— out— of motion— ‘til the sun drops”), or her easy, pointed saunter through a near-drawled melody on “Bang,” or the occasion where she chooses to abandon words altogether on “Jazz (in the Supermarket),” instead relying on a yearning glissade of vocalized melodies.
At the same time, the record’s lyrics are uncouthly smart, too, in the sense that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Where Goat Girl formed in the tumultuous aftermath of Brexit, with brashly tense lyrics to match, they’ve now taken a step back and written from a slower, wry standpoint. The running undercurrent of political anxiety remains but, like the music itself, it’s a bit less frantic. For example, Cream half-seriously describes a tear in the skin of the universe in the titular “The Crack,” where people singing protest songs are absorbed into the wide expanse of space, while drummer Rosy Bones describes their gender identity on “P.T.S.Tea” an easy, tongue-in-cheek dismissal: “Some call me Rosy and some call me Reux/To say what I am, well, I don't have a clue/Ask me again and I'll really show you.”
Taking it back to the beginning, when I heard the first few notes of “Pest,” I was surprised — I’d looked forward to this record for quite some time, even taking the effort to avoid any singles, and I’d been expecting even rougher punk from a band as young and exciting as Goat Girl (and seeing a release slotted between Shame and Black Country, New Road, I’d already begun vaguely anticipating the kind of review I was going to write). Instead, I was surprised by a sprawling art rock record that has much more in common with Kikigaku Moya than The Fall. Mine will likely not be an unusual reaction; I recognize that this is an unexpected turn, but, if anything, this is what Goat Girl has always been about. No matter who witnesses, they’ll continually grow and advance in a society at odds with their existence; they’ll explore the sounds of any genres that function as the most prescient medium for their ideas, no matter what sound is in vogue; they’ll write with candor and wit, with a smirk and an earnestness quite unlike their peers. Oh, and you can tag along too, if you like.
Keep up to date with Goat Girl!