Girls Names are a surprise inclusion on this year’s Meteor Choice Prize shortlist for their album ‘The New Life.’ The Belfast band have evolved from the more rugged sound of their debut ‘Dead To Me’ into a much more refined post-punk sound, and has left much of the general public scratching their heads as to why they haven’t heard of this album before. It has obviously appealed to a greater audience than ‘Dead To Me’, earning itself a place on the Meteor Choice Prize, but is it actually worthy of its place on the list?
A swarm of warm synths cocoons you as you immerse yourself into Portrait before a thick bassline announces the beginning of Pittura Infamante. As the drums, guitars and a hint of a synth presence enter as well, comparisons with a certain band are unavoidable. The whole arrangement of the tune and even the guitar tone reeks of early Eighties era Cure. However the band pull it off well, and the powerful uplifting chorus is immensely catchy. Hypnotic Regression is the early album highlight with a delightfully catchy riff and a deliberate chord progression that slots in effortlessly around Cully’s reverb heavy vocals. Occultation is a slower, gloomier song that again harks back to the gothic sound found on early Cure albums. The sudden tempo change at the end of the tune is a nice touch, and lends a bit of energy to the album.
As the album progresses however, the reverb-drenched vocals steadily become a bit wearing. You can barely make out a word Cully is saying, and it almost feels like his vocal performance doesn’t vary at all from track to track. The second part of the album is filled with slightly sinister, moody, mid-paced songs that are decent tunes on their own, but thrown together, are a bit miserable. There are enough impressive riffs floating around to retain the listener’s interest though, and final track The New Life rewards this patience. The tune builds slowly into a grand outro filled with all manner of exceptional guitar and synth effects, and the distorted guitar portrays a more aggressive side to the band that doesn’t show through during the rest of the album; this seven and a half minute noise-fest is a brilliant way to wrap up the album.
‘The New Life’ is a very good album, but the over-bearing reverb on Cully’s vocals, and a lack of originality take away some of the lustre from this impressive effort. It’s certainly an intriguing choice for the Meteor Choice Prize though, and quite refreshing to see such an unusual album in the mix for the award.