Written by: Dave Cantrell
What’s it say about a record that, the first time you’ve done listening to it, you start right back at the beginning? Then you do it again. Yeah, The New Life by Belfast band Girls Names is that good.
After a short (and frankly inexplicable) intro we’re immediately dropped into a deep, dark and Wobble-y rich bass groove that tells us that, indeed, we’ve stumbled into some impossibly resonant post-punk paydirt. This isn’t hyperbole, nor is it a one-track fluke. From here to fade-out, the vein is inexhaustible.
To the melodic fore is that prominent bass, making statements, giving you shivers, making you smile. On “A Second Skin” – and really, throughout – the agility and presence of the Claire Miskimmin’s playing is simply hypnotic, we’re lured in and the sheer sirenic beauty of Cathal Cully’s commanding, ghostly vocals, Philip Quinn’s at times chimy, at times menacing guitar and the hopskipped drumming (co-founder Neil Brogan) completes the spell. Second track “Piturra Infamante” will have you lurching about in thrumming joy such that seeing them live will become your new obsession. “Occultation” is transfixing enough you might slip into a swaying coma and at the center of all this of course is Cully’s sweepingly clean production and, most important, hooks, hooks, more hooks and tunes. Other than that misbegotten opening (which is only fifty seconds, is gone before you know it), The New Life is gorgeously flush with them.
There’s an emerging tide of bands mining the still-rich beds of that initial Cambrian explosion that was 1977-82 – Savages new album lies just over the horizon as a very tantalizing example (the post-punk tab on Bandcamp will also exuberantly confirm this) – and I for one am thrilled down to the marrow, especially as this crop of revivalists exhibits a depth, commitment, and skill that easily overshadows the previous Kaiser Franz Bloc that appeared, to my eyes and ears (though I enjoyed their dalliance with the mainstream), as more concerned with the sheen of the origin sound and a tad less keen on prowling about its darker heart.
On The New Life, Girls Names display an easy willingness to plumb the further reaches rather than settling for the acolyte’s dash through the more obvious – and facile – fringes. Granted, it occupies the somewhat straight-ahead end of the spectrum – think The Sound, The Lines – and I await the Slits/Pop Group/PiL experimentalists that will inevitably join the parade, but for now, finding myself swooned inside the long, head-nodding lope of the album-ending title track, irresistibly drawn through A Forest that’s not so much socked in gloom as in a propulsive twilight, I’m filled with this kind of wonderfully agitated contentment. Girls Names are, in essence, playing my song.