Northern Ireland’s Girls Names recently released their third full-length album, Arms Around a Vision, via long-term home, Tough Love Records.
‘We look to Europe for inspiration. For romance. For the idea of a better life,’ says the band’s frontman Cathal Cully when discussing the album. ‘For me, living in Belfast just makes you focus on your own art.’
True, Girls Names formed in Belfast, but they’ve long considered themselves a European band. The distinction is important – their vision of Europe is one of weird, labyrinthian histories, blackest-ever-black coffee, and long drives to dismal places. Romantic notions for those of a certain disposition, but behind the thousand-yard stares they’ve always been a soft-hearted lot. As the title of Arms Around a Vision would suggest, they’re all set to let love in.
The band initially came together as a relatively lean two-piece back in the summer of 2010, but over the course of a handful of EPs and three very different albums, they’ve grown in number and ambition. Their previous album, The New Life, was an unexpected underground hit in early 2013, taking the band around the world and garnering much critical praise, culminating in nominations for both the Northern Irish and Irish music prizes. Emboldened by the reception to that record, in March they returned with an 11-minute single that was played in full on Radio 1 and, typically, does not feature on their new album. Girls Names like to do things a little differently.
On Arms Around a Vision, they’re more widescreen than ever but also more direct and aggressive. Recorded and self-produced by the band and mixed by Dan Rejmer (Ben Frost, Tim Hecker), the bass, drums and guitars are still there, but so are saxophones, organs, detuned broken guitars and pianos, and even sheets of metal assaulted with hammers. Conceptually, Arms Around a Vision acts as a love letter to European elegance – Italian futurism, Russian constructivism, Germany’s Zero Group and both Neubaten and Bowie’s Berlin.
Love and pain, romance and fucking. It’s all in there somewhere. Grand claims, perhaps, but in an ever bleak world, why not skygaze? The album opens with Reticence, a song in two parts that’s half metallic knockout, half midnight swagger. It sounds unlike anything they’ve ever done before, and is a perfect primer for an album that treads a course between Eno-era Roxy sleaze, Birthday Party dissonance and M.E.S’ three Rs: repetition, repetition, repetition.
‘The Belfast band meld Sonic Youth’s dissonance with New Order’s dystopian dance. Compelling’ – The Sunday Times
‘Book it: Girls Names are about to release the best underground rock album of 1983′ – SPIN