Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Girls Names - The New Life

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk

Music continues to give us flashbacks to another time, and this is exactly what we get from the second album from Girls Names. The band, as you may well know, are part of the Belfast scene and outside of their main project also perform with The Sound Of Confusion favourites Documenta, plus Neil Brogan writes separate material for his side-project Sea Pinks. So they know their stuff and are clearly not lacking on the ideas front. The particular journey to music's past that 'The New Life' takes us on is to post-punk and gothic indie; the sounds made by groups like The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen and other messy-haired, dark lords of three decades ago.

It's not quite as black and white (or more specifically, black) as that comparison may seem though, and there are shards of like peering through the dry ice and dim-lit backdrop. They do get off to a particularly gothic start, with intro piece 'Portrait' sounding like a church organ, and it doesn't pause as we go into 'Pittura Infamante' with its rumbling bass, reverberating guitar strums and vocals with something of the night about them. Plus more of that organ. You get a hint of Joy Division an 'A Second Skin', but Girls Names use then as an influence, not something to faithfully recreate, and so it's Joy Division had they been around for C86. 'Notion' is another that's full of jangly guitar and muffled singing; it's almost as if they'd struggle to put a foot wrong.

'The New Life' isn't just about doom and gloom though, even if you take a seemingly bleak song like 'Drawing Lines' the guitar sparkles at times, nicely offsetting the almost unholy, droning vocals that are buried deep in the mix. This is followed by stand-out (and it's difficult to pick highlights on an album this consistent) 'Hypnotic Regression' which follows suit with monotonous vocals placed alongside flashes of light from the guitar and a great solo, all backed by a rock solid rhythm section. It's maybe 'Occultation' that's brightest of all, taking in shoegaze; it would sound like a summery haze were it not anchored down by that voice (this is a good thing by the way). They finish with the seven-and-a-half minute powerhouse of the title-track and then they're away into the night, leaving us wanting more.

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