Petrol Girls – ‘Cut & Stitch’

By Tom Walsh

In late-2018, Petrol Girls released new material for the first time in two years. The three-track ‘The Future Is Dark’ EP was a ferocious onslaught of pent-up anger. It was a raging 15 minutes which held one hand on your throat, clasped your eyes open and screamed into your ears the issues that never seem to go unheeded.

It spoke of the disintegration of society, the ongoing misogyny and toxic masculinity that is prevalent in everyday life, and the never-ending slew of crimes governments across the world continue to carry out. It was bleak and it was raw but acted as a rallying cry against all global ills.

This loud and defiant attitude is the hallmark of Petrol Girls and, almost a year on, ‘The Future Is Dark’ has laid the groundwork for the London four-piece’s sophomore record ‘Cut & Stitch’. While the EP was an explosion of anger and carried the immediacy of a record that needed to be released at a very specific period of time, there is scope for much more introspection on this LP.

One track that has survived from the EP is the frantic ‘The Sound’ which opens the new record. The intricate guitar work builds to a crescendo before you’re given a single heartbeat and vocalist Ren Aldridge initiates the powerful assault of ‘Cut & Stitch’. Truly, if there was ever a record that could reach out of your headphones and punch you in the face, this would be it.

Aldridge plays the narrator of ‘Cut & Stitch’ with a series of monologues through a number of tracks, while the ‘Interlude’ breaks act as chapters. Aldridge has previously described this record as being a “patchwork of different sounds, ideas and feelings” and it is matched even in her own performance.

Her vocals effortlessly swing between the intense screams of ‘Tangle of Lives’ to displaying a sense of vulnerability on the personal ‘Skye’, all the while there are interspersed sections of this monologue. The spoken word element feels like Aldridge’s platform to highlight the issues that are important to her and that are being ignored in society.

In the centre of the incredible call-to-arms ‘Big Mouth’, she takes a moment to address the need for women to speak out against the conformity that society expects them to follow. “There’s this demand on us to be polite, quiet and nice and you’re meant to smile and get on with it and when you speak up or fight back, you’re the one that’s fucking problem.”

Statements of this ilk are strewn across ‘Cut & Stitch’, continuing the overriding message of defiance that courses through all Petrol Girls output. The monologues take a more introspective turn in ‘Rootless’. This incredibly sombre, stripped-back track has Aldridge walking through a stream of consciousness that resonates in a sense of hopelessness.

“I became one of the lost boys”, she states. It feels like we’re sitting in the confession box next to her as she says that “it takes time for strangers to mean something” and sighing “I’m nostalgic for memories I’m yet to make”. While Aldridge’s words are evidently related to her, it is a picture that many of us have felt in our darkest hours; a sense of loss, without a way out and what to do next.

It is these swings of emotions that makes ‘Cut & Stitch’ so eclectically impressive. A second after Aldridge has whispered the last breath of ‘Rootless’, ‘Weather Warning’ reaffirms the grip on your throat, forces open your mouth and drops in another dose of brutality.

As a closer, ‘Naive’ encapsulates the ethos of Petrol Girls. Calling out those who think they control us, with Aldridge leading the uprising screaming “I choose to fight” and “we will not be silenced”. However, it is the ominous warning she delivers at the end of the track that is a line to rally the masses, a line that will be inked into many a skin.

It is a simple line. Spoken calmly with a looming sense of foreboding. She whispers “we’re not finished, we never fucking will be”.

No, we won’t.

TOM WALSH

Three more album reviews for you

LIVE: 2000Trees Festival 2019 - Saturday

The Murder Capital - 'When I Have Fears'

Off With Their Heads - ‘Be Good’