The New Life proves to be quite the tricky title for the sophomore album from Girls Names. The Belfast quartet have so reinvented their sound that a rebirth shouldn’t be too far from mind. On the other hand, these dark clouds aren’t exactly peppy. Gone is the clangy effervescence of Dead To Me, and in its stead is a moody wall of stormclouds that just won’t break.
The “new life” blended into the color palette on the band’s second disc includes a heavy dose of The Cure, Cathal Cully’s baritone vocals and skittering post-punk guitar parts more reminiscent of Robert Smith than ever thanks to the melancholic pace. A lithe bass stands out amongst washes of synth-organ and smoky harmonies on “Pittura Infamante”, completing the picture. Thankfully though, these tunes recall The Cure without entirely aping them, the addition of effected vocals and ringing feedback bringing things up to date.
If you’re going for a Factory Records vibe, though, you need to have the hooks and the idiosyncrasies to stand apart from the luminaries. Girls Names refresh the old sounds some (adding electronic dream pop texture to “Occultation”, for instance), but too often it lacks that “new life” and fades into the past. Moreover, the dripping reverb laced through seemingly every guitar part and each of Cully’s double-tracked vocals blur the lines quite a bit, leaving the songs to melt into each other and the past.
Girls Names reproduce favorite sounds admirably, and they’ve chosen an extremely popular era to recall, but perhaps a little maturation in this New Life will get them to an exciting place equal to the one they’d already reached.
Essential Tracks: “Pittura Infamante”, “Occultation”