The Gender Studies EP by Dublin’s M(h)aol (pronounced “male”) is compelling both musically and politically. The band, made up of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Constance Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoe Greenway and Sean Nolan, state that they aim to “shake up the male dominated post-punk scene with their urgent, shadowy sounds” and the topics covered on the EP range from violence against women, the misogynistic music scene in Ireland and the UK, and trying to navigate life as a non-cis straight white man. I would advise buying this from Bandcamp as the lyrics are available on each track’s page and to give you a taste I have included words to the title track below.

The vocals are sung/talked partly like a slightly offhand narration, which I felt signalled gloomy resignation at having to be talking about such subjects (as in the line “No one ever wants to talk to us unless they want to fuck” from ‘No One Ever Talks to Us’), and partly with a wry ‘fuck-you’ attitude for everyone the band are railing against. Only in ‘Laundries’ does singer Ghearailt let fury burst through on this song about Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries.

The band are named for Grainne Mhaol a 16th century head of the Ó Máille dynasty in the west of Ireland, described by historian and novelist, Anne Chambers, as “a fearless leader, by land and by sea, a political pragmatist and politician, a ruthless plunderer, a mercenary, a rebel, a shrewd and able negotiator, the protective matriarch of her family and tribe, a genuine inheritor of the Mother Goddess and Warrior Queen attributes of her remote ancestors… a woman who broke the mould…” and the last song on the EP, ‘Ó Ró Sé Do Bheatha Bhaile’, is the band’s take on a traditional Irish folk song which they have managed to make sound beautiful and disorientating and heroic.

The backing is gloriously unsettling as it rumbles and lurches underneath the vocals. It can punctuate with juddering machine noise or explode with sudden flashes of coruscating distortion. The bass pulses, the guitar grumbles and tries not to trip itself up, and the drums pound and tap and keep the whole fuzz-juggernaut from driving off the cliff. There are not many bands who can tame such noise and make it bend to their will but M(h)aol have not only done this, but also brought a bleak beauty to this fine collection of songs.

M(h)aol socials: Facebook | Twitter | SoundCloud

Lyrics – Gender Studies

Why don’t you study my gender,

Tell me it’s not enough,

Shout at me in the streets

Claim it’ll make me tough,

Why don’t you study my gender

Tell me there’s only two,

Tell me its perfect

Its enough for me and you

Why don’t you study my gender

Peddle those tired old lines

That the violence is justified

Cause it saves the right kind of lives

Why don’t you study my gender

Tell me I’m no fun anymore

That I used to be quiet and pretty

And you liked the old me more

Why don’t you study my gender

Stretch it out so we both can see

Ask invasive questions

Pretend you’re not hurting me

Because when you study my gender

And we fight this dirty war

And I tell you that you’re trash

And you call me a whore

We’ve nothing gained and

Nothing ventured and there’s

No outcome we haven’t seen before

So go ahead, study my gender

Bring all your fears and insecurities

To the fore

Cause when you study my gender,

Guess what I like the new me more

Review by Paul F Cook

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