Album Review: Silverbacks – Fad

[Central Tones; 2020]

U2 and My Bloody Valentine established Republic of Ireland as a boiling pot of post-punk bands, and recently there has been a rebirth of guitar bands from the nation including Fontaines D.C., Girl Band, and The Murder Capital, proving that it’s still a fertile ground for this type of music. The next in line are the Dublin-based quartet Silverbacks. Their long-gestating debut record Fad has been on the radar since 2016, when early versions of album tracks were played live and released via Bandcamp.

You wouldn’t necessarily know they were Irish from the get go; album opener and first banger “Dunkirk” has a thick bassline that feels closer to the 80s post-punk being churned out in New York City than their Irish forebears or contemporaries. Their NYC-styled post-punk is also reminiscent of Parquet Courts in places, most notably on “Pink Tide”. Throughout Fad, Daniel O’Kelly’s lyrics punch like a new iteration of Car Seat Headrest – in your face, emotive, and layered in cynicism.

Even if the repeated transitions within a single song prove disruptive to some, it works very well to make Fad feel like a natural product of the scene, and here Silverbacks are taking that approach and making it their own. While they aren’t 100% married to the post-punk label (if you ask them, they are “art-punk”) it’s the most apt classification available.

Across the first five tracks of Fad you wouldn’t know that Silverbacks have a secret weapon, until you get to “Klub Silberrücken” where bassist Emma Hanlon takes to the microphone to lead the song during the verses, before O’Kelly’s gruffer voice enters for the chanted chorus. “Up the Nurses” is another where Hanlon takes the reigns, and she soars with the chorus “You’re out of control” while her band cradles her vocals wonderfully.

This male/female dual vocalist technique isn’t new either, but Hanlon’s vocals provide an additional layer of enjoyment in Fad. In this milieu, we’re used to in-your-face female vocals, like a Jehnny Beth or Kim Gordon approach, but Hanlon has a sweeter, more loving style that brings to mind Cat Power’s Chan Marshal or even Amber Coffman (previously of the Dirty Projectors) at their most cutting.

Silverbacks have hit the nail on the head with Fad. It’s a well-crafted start and works extremely well across its tight 36 minutes; the only real deviation coming in the form of a series of one-minute noise intermissions that purposefully break up the flow. These aside, Fad is one long post-punk pool party and Silverbacks are playing in the middle of it all, on top of a barge, revving up the crowd to near rioting. It’s not that Fad is completely original, but this assembly of styles has been successful for so many other great bands, and Silverbacks are another who make it work so well together.