The Supremes, Spice Girls, Bananarama, All Saints, The Saturdays – girl groups are not a recent phenomenon. Though the music industry has evolved since the emergence of the first such ensembles half a century ago, the basic concept has remained more or less static, predictable even. This is particularly so in the number of members in the typical girl group. Usually limited to a maximum of five, as So So Gay reported recently, the craze that is K-Pop has broken down this particular barrier with the nine-piece South Korean band, Girls’ Generation.
Meet Gaggle, a 21 (yes twenty one)-piece all-female group from our own fair shores. The brainchild of Deborah Coughlin, Gaggle were formed in 2008 as a female choir. But be under no illusions; this is no polite classical affair. Gaggle espouse the kind of raw feminine passion you don’t get from your average conveyor belt, hair-tied-up-on-top-of-head-Cher-Lloyd-style girl group.
This is indeed a riotous affair. Once banned from Reading Festival for three quarters of an hour, if supplementary evidence of the group’s non-compliance with the worn girl group formula is required, one need look no further than From The Mouth Of The Cave, Gaggle’s debut album. Set for release on 25 June, the album is a veritable tour de force of colourful melody, industrial instrumentation and some pretty damn hard-hitting lyrical content. Take the track ‘Liar’, for example, on which the band mull over how to handle an errant lover, tying his legs together and throwing him in the river seemingly a viable option.
The album also sees the ladies take on the rather complex issues of economics, detaching oneself from negative situations and, perhaps most aptly, struggling to make oneself heard in a crowd on debut single ‘Army Of Birds’. Gaggle’s output is abundantly more profound than much of your standard industry fodder. It’s exciting, fresh and completely unique. Just like the band’s inimitable sartorial style (see above).
Listening to Gaggle’s music is fascinating from many divergent points of view, not least because the vocal delivery is not of the kind you might encounter on shows such as Last Choir Standing or Britain’s Got Talent (feel free to heave a huge sigh of relief). Although it is clear that a great deal of work has been done on making the 21 voices showcased in the group harmonise, you get a distinct sense that each and every individual has been expressly permitted to retain their individuality. This means that there are moments where Gaggle sound distinctly Bananarama-esque, in the opening bars of ‘Gaslight’ for example. We feel this is perfectly acceptable. Deliberately not shaping the troupe into your run-of-the-mill, classical-formation choir was possibly the best decision Coughlin ever made.
In summary, there is an irresistible thread running through Gaggle’s work of 21 women basically having fun while making the kind of abrasive yet nuanced music you will want to listen to and share with others. The lovechild of Bananrama and Björk is, after all, a tempting prospect, is it not?