M(h)aol – ‘Attachment Styles’

By Fiachra Johnston

M(h)aol, in a very short time, have been able to leave their mark as one of the more unique voices in the scene. Born partly out of the rising modern Irish punk tradition, the quintet have stood out through a truly raw sound and pointed lyrics, moreso than many other of their contemporaries. A first full length record is no easy feat in its own right, however despite the struggle, M(h)aol) have managed to not only retain that energy in their debut album, but expand on it; ‘Attachment Styles’ is a smash mouth record that puts M(h)aol’s stinging songwriting on display, as they wax lyrical on everything from trauma to triumph, devastation to devotion.

Vocalist Róisín Nic Ghearailt and co. waste no time getting to the meat of the matter in the opener ‘Asking For It’, the heaviest in both subject matter and instrumentation, a raging cacophony that does not shy away from the traumatic lived experiences of so many of the band’s peers and beyond. ‘Bored of Men’ similarly goes hard on drums and whining guitars and helps start the album off with chaotic pessimism that leans into the album’s thesis statement: things will get better, but it’s going to sting first. When the intensity reaches its peak, such as in ‘Femme’, it’s a rolling frenzy of sound, a warped mashup of horrific lived experiences mixed with some devilish instrumentals. Nic Ghearailt matches these shifts in intensity with ease, always sly in her delivery and saving her harshest vocals for the very last moment, with explosive results. M(h)aol are masters of the buildup, able to slowly entrance the listener and crank the tension up to an anxiety-inducing degree, before rewarding the listener for their investment with an explosive payoff, such as in Nice Guys’, which spends much of its 5 minute runtime savagely mocking its titular character before breaking into an almost sci-fi eruption of feedback and noise.

What stands out most in ‘Attachment Styles’ are these darkly humorous moments. Where they could have remained grim in both tone and subject matter, M(h)aol realise the absurdity in it all in tracks like ‘Therapy’, an idiosyncratic piece that deals with healing and spite. Likewise, the climax of the album, ‘Period Sex’  is about, you guessed it, community and sense of self… and good period sex. Both tonally and thematically the opposite of the opening ‘Asking For It’ it’s a track that keeps things simple instrumentally in favour of building up the tension for a fantastic final release. They’re all subjects familiar to the band, and M(h)aol are no stranger to humour, but this off-kilter positivity suits them, and though the album itself is a story about growth and becoming better despite the best efforts of those who would do you harm, more than that the band themselves put their growth on full display as they tackle these subjects in new ways that invigorate their sound.

Speaking of, production and mixing is bare bones in the best way. Whether by design or by necessity, bassist Jamie Hyland masters the sound of garage punk through her mixing using little to no drum mics, and a PA for vocals. As said, there’s a rawness to everything M(h)aol do, and a lot of it would fall flat with the wrong production. The growing anxiety and emptiness of ‘Cowboy Honey’, or the discordant chaos of ‘No One Ever Talks To Us’, these only make the impact they do with the right atmosphere, and Hyland manages the difficult balancing act of achieving that style without sounding too messy with grace.

‘Attachment Styles’ is everything it sets out to be and more. Darkly sardonic in a way only Irish punk can be, M(h)aol have found the missing ingredient that has taken their music to a new level: hope. This is an album that curses great injustices but still remains hopeful enough to celebrate tiny victories, a tale of forcing yourself to harden up against a cruel world while allowing yourself these moments of softness and humour. There’s catharsis to be found here, and while its punchy and to the point style will have you wrapped in a chokehold, that doesn’t mean you won’t notice the heart that’s worn on this record’s sleeve.



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