There’s a gnarly line in “Tapioca Tadpole”, the first track off Surrey-based band girlsnails’ self-titled EP, that caught me off guard: “straight to the point / of breakfast in bed when you’ve woken up dead.” It’s easy to miss, coming in the last half of the track and buried in boisterous brass arrangements, but once you know it’s there, its impact is hard to shake. Though it’s not an actual juxtaposition or contradiction, the line — like girlsnails themselves — smacks you in the face; it’s an unlikely incongruity that immediately fits with the greater dissonance of the song.
“Tapioca Tadpole” starts off as an orchestral pop song (the likes of which we haven’t seen done this well since Ohbijou) but it doesn’t stay that way for long. For one thing, its length (almost five-and-a-half minutes) allows girlsnails to explore what pop would sound like if it was let off its leash and allowed to run free. Splashing through streams of math-rock, twee-pop, and free-jazz, “Tapioca Tadpole” gets deliciously dirty with all kinds of genres, sounds, and styles but then strikes you as having one of the cleanest, most fluid sounds ever. By the time girlsnails brings the song to its natural end, what at first seemed gnarly comes off as uncomplicated, straight to the point, and assured. In the hands of lesser musicians, a song of such breadth and diversity would come off like one big hot mess; girlsnails makes you feel — nay believe! — that they know exactly what they’re doing.