Girls Names – The New Life (Tough Love)

The ragtag Belfast group, Girls Names, now a foursome, won over hearts and minds with their critically lauded debut Dead To Me in 2011, featuring pop-glazed surf-rock á la Beach House or Cults. The group started life as a duo of just Cathal Cully and Neil Brogan, with a scant knowledge of music (Brogan famously had to learn the drums for their first ever gig – supporting Wavves), picking up their instruments and recruiting members along the journey.

Released Feb 18th, 2013 via Tough Love / By Larry Day
Girls Names – The New Life (Tough Love) Their new album, The New Life, has been described by the band as a reincarnation – as soon as it was released, they were almost ready to disown Dead To Me, and touring the material wasn’t something they were particularly fond of. This new record swerves away from the wholly surf noise that they were conjuring a couple years back, instead injecting the morbidity of late ‘80s post punk, with some people already drawing comparisons to Bauhaus and Joy Division.

‘Second Skin’ drowns in reverb; ripples of swaddled guitars glide and meander around pumping drum beats. It’s dreamy, a haze-addled effort of descending bass riffs and Robert Smith vocals. Infectious bass and lick-heavy guitar are common aspects of the record, with cuts like ‘Notion’ swirling in semi-Spanish pop hooks and lengthy closer ‘The New Life’ owning a chugging bassline beneath the Horrors-y prog-escapades.

The marked shift in sound has the potential to alienate diehard fans of their former sound – people who fell in love with the jangly guitars and blasé neo-Americana might be a tad irked, but just as Faris Badwan has discovered, the foray into post-punkdom will win them scores more, and bouquets of kudos from around the blogosphere.

This is largely a more psychedelic mission, with the lo-fi aesthetic of before replaced with fuzzy spirals of FX-laden axes and electronic ambience. Current single ‘Hypnotic Regression’ is poppy, with off-kilter guitar at the forefront and tie-dyed baritone whispers, like a ‘60s hippie Interpol. ‘Occultation’ features snappy tom-heavy percussion with breakneck snare, infectiously melodic guitar wailing and cyclic synths soaring like seagulls above the post-punk briny. It’s dark in places but solidly uplifting, and every crunch of shoegaze guitar is a graceful moment of solace.

Girls Names, although almost faltering in their formative years, have succeeded in a definitely more natural transformation. There’s an abundance of confidence in their new direction, even though they knew of the risk in detracting from the style that bought them such far-ranging plaudits. This feels and sounds like the music they were born to make. The New Life is not subtly titled, though it is very apt. It’s a stonking collection of masterful, emotive guitars and modern post-punk, laced with just a smacking of pop.