Girls Names: The new life (Captured Tracks, Slumberland; 2013)


Como si de una referencia directa se tratara, el título de este nuevo trabajo de Girls Names: The new life (2013), anticipa todo lo que nos vamos a encontrar en el mismo. Nuevo sonido, nueva actitud, nuevo envoltorio, nuevas estructuras…
Sin que su anterior trabajo, el irregular Dead to me (2011) fuera una maravilla (por cierto, la banda ha renegado de él recientemente), en este The new life, los de Belfast, se han marcado un disco mucho más oscuro, mucho más claustrofóbico, mucho más angustiante. Si en aquel destacábamos incluso su sentido del humor y su positivismo en temazos como Bury me, Nothing more to say o Cut up; en The new life todo esto es (casi) imposible de encontrar. Todo ello se ha borrado de un plumazo y en él nos encontramos más bien con paredes oscuras, con riffs reiterativos y muy machacones. Algo así a las influencias de las que hablábamos ayer para Beach Fossils pero llevadas al extremo. Personalmente, prefiero su sonido primigenio al exhibido en este nuevo trabajo, pero supongo que se trata de la evolución lógica de un grupo que si hay algo que no ha perdido es ese sentido de la grabación en pocas tomas y de cierto carácter amateurista en su grabación, con muchísimos aspectos mejorables, aunque tal y como les ha quedado tiene su encanto, muy ochentero (el pedal chorus es protagonista absoluto), si bien las influencias joydivisianas se les notan a la legua: Drawing lines, The new life… que pasan, por cierto, por ser las que considero las mejores del lote, dos temazos que tan sólo por su linealidad y su desarrollo progresivo merecen la pena ser destacadas.
Mención aparte para Projektion, un corte en el que aparece reflejada algo así a lo que deben entender unos chicos de Belfast de la música española. Al menos a mí me ha sonado una cadencia muy española. Mi chica me daba la clave esta mañana: Suenan a Héroes del Silencio… (??) Y no le falta algo de razón, aunque yo iría más por una cierta semejanza con muchos sonidos de una banda que hoy por hoy sería una influencia de Girls Names, y hablo de Parálisis Permanente, unos visionarios en el territorio hispano de todo lo que se iba cociendo en el sonido británico de comienzos de los ochenta. ¿Cómo lo veis…?
En definitiva, un disco más que ameno, con momentos interesantes que interesará sin duda a seguidores del Post-Punk y que a los que no lo son, aunque no lo incluirán en su lista de favoritos, sin duda les hará pasar un buen rato, pues es un trabajo que se deja oír muy bien.


Girls Names‘ 2011 debut LP was called Dead to Me, with songs that possessed such happy-go-lucky titles as “Bury Me”, “I Could Die”, and “No More Words”. The album’s closing song referenced a movie about a psychic dealing with the death of her dead son, so in case you haven’t caught on yet, the Belfast outfit possesses a bit of a morbid streak. Frontman Cathal Cully’s wavering, accent-flecked baritone drew immediate comparisons to Brad Hargett of fellow death-obsessed Slumberland labelmates Crystal Stilts— as did Dead to Me’s rollicking garage-pop sound, which resembled what you might hear if you played the Stilts’ Alight of Night at 45 RPM. On that album’s highlight, the sulking “I Lose”, Cully intoned with a touch of dour misery, “I don’t miss my old life,” a curiously anti-nostalgic statement on a record that so dutifully mined the C86 era’s darker corners.
Dead to Me was a perfectly fine genre exercise of an album, but given the arguable creative zenith reached by the C86 micro-revival of three years prior, it didn’t do much to create a lasting impact– and as it turns out, Cully wouldn’t have it any other way. He recently toldBowlegs that positive reviews of the album weren’t “wholly justifiable,” and in press materials for Girls Names’ new album, The New Life, he claims that “Dead to Me literally was dead to us by the time it was committed to wax”. He’s not kidding: true to its title, The New Life finds Girls Names ripping it up and starting again, turning their replicative talents towards post-punk’s dreamier, more spectral corners. They throw in some faintly chugging motorik andEcho and the Bunnymen-sized romance along the way, without ever straying from the type of spiky stuff that turned the word “angular” into one of rock criticism’s greatest clichés.
Girls Names sound like a new band on The New Life, and at times, they are– the group’s expanded (for now) from a trio to a quartet, thanks to Philip Quinn’s synth work on a few album cuts. The greatest noticeable change is in the production quality, which is greatly removed from the tin can trappings of Dead to Me and the 2010 mini-LP You Should Know By Now; Cully produced the album himself, and more bands working in this vein would be smart to hire him behind the boards. Although his hand occasionally tips the scales of self-indulgence, there’s a remarkable sense of space on The New Life, a bright whiteness that, ironically, only increases these songs’ claustrophobic mood. Even when there’s only two or three instruments in the mix, as on the winding opening minutes of “Drawing Lines”, the atmosphere is dense.
The instrumentation on The New Life is evenly spaced and more varied than Girls Names’ previous efforts– but, really, it’s all about the guitars on this one. Cully handles six-string duties on his own here, and in terms of writing clean and expressive melodic lines, he proves as adept as the guitarists in Brooklyn’s DIIV, another group that’s largely able to get by on the strength of their instrumental interplay. At points, he creates expressive layers of interplay, as dubby stabs and walkabout solos sit atop the distant jangle of “Hypnotic Regression”; elsewhere, as on the darkly shaded “A Second Skin”, Cully needs only one guitar to spin something melodically sticky, before doubling over in complicated, tangled figures. He’s the kind of guitarist that renders indie purists’ worries about their genre’s abolishment of the instrument as foolishness, plain and simple.
Much of The New Life’s pleasures are found in its instrumentation, a factor which turns out to be the record’s defining flaw. Cully’s voice worked well as a heavy anchor steadying the relative chaos of Girls Names’ previous work, but with a few exceptions– his floaty high register on “Drawing Lines”, the considerable swagger possessed on the album’s eight-minute leg-stretcher of a title-track– he sounds almost too removed on this album, his voice acting as merely another element in Girls Names’ cloudy-sky mindset. (This atmospheric presence means that the lyrics don’t make themselves readily available to the naked ear either– then again, with song titles like “Occultation”, you don’t need a decoder ring to figure out what he’strying to say.)
Granted, grousing about a lack of distinctive male vocals in 2013 is not a novel pursuit, but what adds insult to The New Life’s moaned injury is that many singers from the musical era mined here– the Cure’s Robert Smith, Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, just to name the ones who immediately stand out– stood out for sounding bold and, often, weird, regardless of how accessible the music surrounding them was. For now, Cully’s another voice in the crowd in that regard, but his promising talent displayed elsewhere on The New Life suggests that he’s one to keep your ears perked up for nonetheless” (Pitchfork)

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