Noise Annoys: Problem Patterns release Blouse Club, Arab Strap 'undress' Philophobia

Words on the debut Problem Patterns album, Blouse Club, plus a reminder of Arab Strap's imminent visit to Belfast...

Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport
Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport

READER(S), you have no idea how glad I am to be writing about Problem Patterns again. Yes, the Belfast-based quartet are mentioned in this column a lot – because, obviously, they rule – but right now Noise Annoys is feeling physically poleaxed in the wake of another bout of Covid (this time a lovely, vomiting-enhanced strain) and emotionally crushed following the sudden deaths of two colleagues, ace photographer Hugh Russell and sub editor extraordinaire Dawn Egan, in shockingly quick succession.

I'd worked with both of these fine people for 23 years, and closely with Dawn in particular, who had the unique misfortune of being required to read virtually everything I've ever written for the features pages of this paper.

It's hard to muster up the will to write anything at all under such trying circumstances, but Problem Patterns are an important, inspirational band for myself and so many others. Their debut LP, Blouse Club, is probably one of the most eagerly anticipated local albums this side of the Kneecap record, and with an October 27 release date fast-approaching, there's no way Noise Annoys is letting it go past unmarked.

Yes, life goes on – and it's always more bearable with a good soundtrack.

Blouse Club is released on October 27
Blouse Club is released on October 27 Blouse Club is released on October 27

Problem Patterns – Blouse Club (album, Alcopop! Records)

IT'S hard to believe that Problem Patterns have been around for five years now: having first grabbed my attention with their startlingly excellent debut EP Good For You, Aren't You Great? back in 2019, which was purchased on ye olde CD format in the wake of a revelatory live show at The Black Box, Bev, Beth, Alanah and Ciara have been Noise Annoys regulars ever since.

Why? Well, while many aspiring bands sadly seem to lose track of their most appealing qualities in their quest to become 'better' – better players, better songwriters, better performers, better paid – somehow these instrument-swappin', misogynist-baitin', transphobia-hatin', queerpunk queens have managed to continuously refine their natural knack for capturing righteous indignation in catchy, superbly snarky lyrical form while cranking out a gloriously raucous yet stubbornly melodic racket guaranteed to reduce a packed room to a sweaty, smiling, unified mess by the end of the second sing/shout-along chorus.

Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport
Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport Problem Patterns. Picture by Carrie Davenport

Read more:

  • Belfast punks Problem Patterns sign record deal
  • Noise Annoys: Chat from Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap, plus The Bobby Lees, Follakzoid and The Music Tapes
  • Noise Annoys: Problem Patterns, The Murder Capital, The Dangerfields and The Dwarves  

You'll find ample evidence of this in the string of excellent singles since that debut EP, all of which appear on what amounts to a pretty seismic debut album.

Happily, the brand new tunes which join these gems on Blouse Club – titled for the speakeasies organised by Irish women of the post-war era while not legally allowed into bars – are crafted to a similarly high standard, while also allowing Problem Patterns to expand their musical palate.

Stand-out newies Advertising Services and A History of Bad Men Part II – Bev's late-stage capitalism blues channelled via playfully perky pop punk, and a sludgy, grungy, only slightly tongue-in-cheek exposé of mediocre maleness led by a ferocious sounding Ciara – arrive brave and early and back to back, the better to let listeners enjoy the considerable contrast between them.

Both songs could be future singles, and it's hard not to love any band who can draw upon both the Undertones and the Melvins so perfectly while still sounding instantly recognisable as themselves.

Most fans will already be familiar with recent AA-side, Lesbo 3000 / Poverty Tourist – the former, Beth's fast, fist-pumping lesbian anthem, the latter a squalling pop-grunge skewering of parental wealth-insured charlatans slumming it for kicks in the local scene.

The faithful will also be ready to sing along to the record's pleasingly noisy opening salvo of Yes All Women (a frank and furious Alanah-sung ode to the #notallmen brigade) and Big Shouty (a throat-stripping, shared-vocal rant inspired by creepy, patronising local promoters), explosive, pandemic-inspired anti-Tory hit Who Do We Not Save?, Bev's holy hypocrite-damning earworm Letter of Resignation (now equipped with a charming new intro) and stomping anti-transphobe advisory TERFs Out.

Truly hardcore PP devotees will also recognise Alanah's self-care stormer Picture of Health, already a live favourite which manages the impressive feat of sounding even more ferocious here in its newly recorded form.

Elsewhere, there's a pleasant moment of musical whimsy in the form of another brand new tune, the gentle, chiming Pity Bra (surely a riot grrrl band name just waiting to be claimed), an amusing slice of Sleater-Kinney gig-going reportage which sounds not unlike Corin Tucker and co in particularly playful form.

Domestic Bliss swings the other way to end Blouse Club in a memorably nasty manner. This new number starts slow and menacing before demonic girl gang vocals and clanging guitar abuse gradually build into a ferocious wall of noise – think Mediocre Man drugged, stuffed into a bag, tied to the hoover and then kicked down the cellar steps by a partner at the end of their tether.

As you may already have gathered, Blouse Club has been well worth the wait: it's basically loaded front-to-back with bangers. Some songs you will already know and love, some you will love getting to know: all will surely live long in your heart and punk rock playlists.

Best of all, this is still only the beginning for Problem Patterns – who knows where they might be in another five years? World domination surely beckons.

Be on the right side of herstory by getting the record bought now via problempatterns.bandcamp.com, then purchase tickets for the Belfast album launch show at The Black Box on October 27, when you will get to hear the whole of Blouse Club performed start-to-finish. Tickets are £10 via blackboxbelfast.com, support comes from Touch Excellent and Mucker.

Oh, and be sure to visit irishnews.com/arts next Thursday morning at 10am, because we will have a Problem Patterns exclusive for you in the form of an excellent new music video for a Blouse Club track – one of seven the band have created to celebrate their fabulous debut album.


Arab Strap: Philophobia Undressed – October 26, The Black Box, Belfast

Arab Strap return to Belfast next week. Picture by Kat Gollock
Arab Strap return to Belfast next week. Picture by Kat Gollock Arab Strap return to Belfast next week. Picture by Kat Gollock

A MERE 25 years on from its original release, the re-united Arab Strap are celebrating their much-loved second album with a special stripped-back presentation featuring "a guitar or two, some drum machines and probably a digital Mellotron".

Malcolm and Aidan say: "Philophobia was where everything started to come together, when we began to realise making music might have a future for us, and the Arab Strap sounds and themes began to take shape.

"These tunes seem to have endured, and it's probably the only album we'd ever consider performing all the way through. We'll probably play some new songs too."

A joyous evening of musical miserablism awaits.

:: Tickets £26 via blackboxbelfast.com