Review | Skinny Girl Diet

Skinny Girl Diet @ Hoxton, 16 November 2011

Skinny Girl Diet, Power Lunches, London

There’s not so much a buzz about Skinny Girl Diet as a low rumble, building up to a growl when they plug in and play.

Rewind six months and their lo-fi grrrl-punk power-generator could be heard heating up the Birds Nest DIY pub in Deptford. Rabbits in the spotlight on an un-raised stage: cameras hovered, the crowd crowded and necks craned while Delilah Holliday (guitar & vocals), Ursula Holliday (drums & vocals) and Amelia Cutler (bass & vocals) rewrote the riot act.

Hesitant, yelping, concentrating, grinning – as unsure as the audience what might happen next or which way we’d react – it was a sound that said catch us while you can, whenever you can. Because we’re here to stay and gone tomorrow. Because next time you see us we will have changed. Because we sound like the past, yes, and the future, all at once, but our only impulse is to grab a piece of the present.

And then as suddenly as they started – seven songs, maybe eight – it was over, and we staggered away, slightly shocked and awed, to think about what just happened; a little hit of history (well, herstory).

Back to the now and an autumn Thursday finds the girls are skipping night-school, threading down the main Dalston drag, heading for the Power Lunches basement. A hot café/studio venue, a scenester sauna, a Turkish bath with backline. A squall of feedback announces their presence and Skinny Girl Diet are all serene smiles: the LOL before the storm.

The motorik thud of ‘Eyes (That Paralyse)’ begins the set, kinetic and compelling. Delilah’s voice hovers hypnotically over careening fuzz guitar. Sure enough, a string of gigs in London and Brighton since the spring have tightened up their playing immeasurably, and there’s a palpable new confidence in their sound, style and attitude. By the time the mood lightens with the sardonic vocal relay of ’14’ – ”you’re 16, looking 14, trying to be18!” – the room is theirs.

With audience cheers fighting off the feedback, new song ‘Homesick’ speeds to a chase before slowing to a crawl. ‘Sunburn’ follows with creeping bass and shimmering Banshees chords. ”You’re sunny but you’re not warm” is the cryptic refrain. Delilah cradles her retro-red six-string against her baby-doll dress and sings with a steady defiance; Ursula’s drumming is urgent, insidious.

After the hardcore surge of ‘Douchebag’ and ‘Wolfpack’, the pace slows again for ‘Insomnia’. ”I used to live in the clouds, then one day I fell out” is Delilah’s honeyed lament, but for Amelia it’s a whisper back to a scream. Here’s life from a North London window, archetypal teenage tristesse.

The crowd demand, and get, an encore. ‘Mermaid Veins’ is woozy and febrile, a fervid statement of intent. ‘I’ve got mermaid blood in my veins. I’m gonna CHANGE’. Guitars and drums crash to a halt, and they’re over and out.

Beyond the media cliché, Riot Grrrl, like punk before it, was never a formula: it blew the doors wide open to shout that anything was possible. Likewise, Skinny Girl Diet are anything but what you expect. Their sound is dark and primal, but without an ounce of gothic pretence; it’s a pure sweet menace.

Music this of-itself, this sure of itself, creates its own world whose parameters pull you in alongside, powerless to resist. Skinny Girl Diet are, but are not just, a grunge trio; they are, but aren’t just, a shot in the arm for UK Riot Grrrl; they’re not just anything. They are an ocean of possibility. Hear them raw.

Kofi Smith
Photographed by Kris Smith for the girls are

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