Girls Names at Moth Club, London on Tuesday 19 June
It’s been a difficult first week in the company of Girls Names new album ‘Stains On Silence’, some of the basslines don’t sound like Claire Miskimmin’s, Wexford’s Gib Cassidy isn’t on the drum-stool anymore, and while Cathal Cully’s vocals are great, they are harder to decipher than before. With only 8 songs to adapt to this new direction, it was easy to feel a bit short-changed.
All those fears were allayed in Hackney’s Moth Club last night as Girls Names rolled through 90% of the new record in an energetic blitz of in-band instrument exchanges, clever new noises, several new instruments and Cully even confidently taking the mic unaccompanied by his guitar, like some sort of Karaoke King, at one stage.
The unrecognisable basslines were actually played live by guitarist Philip Quinn. Whereas Miskimmin tends to plough straight through with a super clean, melodic bass sound, Quinn goes in all Billie-Jean (Impaled Mystique), with touches of disco rock ala The Rapture (Haus Proud). Miskimmin busies herself with keys/synth duties during this brief pass over of bass duties.
When a violin appears, it is through a swath of effects pedals and noise. Ironically, the more traditional violin melody is played on bass here. Confusing? Yes. Enjoyable? Hell yes! This is what Girls Names do so well, allow you to think they’re a standard fit indie-rock band, when they’re anything but. They take chances, and they work resoundingly well for the most part.
A fairly packed Moth Club are up for it too, playing along with Cully’s request to come closer to the stage, some teens even get a mosh going. At different stages, his elongated use of low, deep vowel sounds come off more like some weird synth, while his increasingly melodic guitar lines sound more like they could be the vocal hook, (Cully doesn’t do falsetto, it’s hard to imagine he ever even raises his voice above his now trademark hypnotic snarl).
New drummer Sarah Grimes is a solid addition. Though visibly frustrated by her lack of drum sound in her stage monitor, she gets on with it and seems made for the band.
We get a handful of golden oldies too, Pittura Infamante, and Hypnotic Regression from 2013’s ‘The New Life’ being particular standouts. At their best they fuse the I.R.S years of R.E.M with Pixies lesser celebrated ‘Trompe Le Monde’ and ‘Bossanova’ records. That early Stipe mumble coupled with all that melody and chiming guitar, pinned around those Kim Deal-esque basslines.
Girls Names are coming up on their 10 year anniversary and it shows. The set brims with confidence, gives the new songs a deeper meaning, and they seem to enjoy it, even if they’re not particularly fond of showing it through any giveaway facial expressions.
If they were around in the 1980s you would be watching them on Top of the Pops this Friday. But our attention spans are dwindling, not mid-gig, more in general. Things not understood in an instant are often forgotten or ignored, last night’s gig was a pleasant reminder to allow true art time to grow.
In Association with The Irish Jam.
Photo: Girls Names at Forbidden Fruit Festival/Shaun Neary