Girls Names – Oxford Mail 29/3/16

Girls Names – Bullingdon, Oxford. Published in Oxford Mail 29/3/16

Girls names, a four piece act from Belfast, seem to operate in a different hemisphere to most bands. They have an elusive style which is almost impossible to pinpoint or pigeonhole that ranges from long, drawn out psychedelic meanderings to punky palm mutes through to 90’s disco akin to Pulp’s more dancehall numbers. In many ways it’s refreshing to listen to a band with so much going on musically, even if at times slightly baffling. The band are touring their Arms Around A Vision album, released in Autumn of last year and their desire to “mix it up” creatively is still very present on an album that has the ability to both dazzle and disappoint on a track by track basis.

It’s hard to know whether the band are fed up of playing the same set list for six months or just overly tired from a rigorous schedule but there is a definite fatigue to Girls Names which is apparent from the get go. The band ascend onto stage and there is a palpable air of going through the motions, the whole performance is lazy and sloppy with little direction or emphasis. Other than the quite outstanding work from guitarist Phillip Quinn, using a minimalist pedal board but ingeniously creating quite outstanding sweeps of cadence, there is very little to cling on to in a totally forgettable 45 minutes of disengaged dreariness.

The statue-like band would break off into moments where one felt there was deliberate atmospheric build up, again Quinn carrying the band while lead singer Cathal Cully fiddled aimlessly with his keyboard and the rhythm section plodded along like nodding dogs, only for the track to find a quiet spot, curl up and accept its inevitable death. The summing up of a loosely performed, loosely enthused and loosely organised set came when, after Quinn breaking a string, the band asked the audience if anyone had a spare guitar. Even a small-time pub act knows you have to prepare for such eventualities but it really cemented the belief that this was a band that could do without playing this particular show.

Girls Names are an infuriating act as at times they have a live sound which can be genuinely mesmerising. However a great set is all about momentum, the ability to keep the audience on their toes and connected with the performers. This night smacked of a band saving themselves for more salubrious nights which is a criminal attitude to have. A busy touring schedule does lead to fatigue and a certain level of complacency but with the emergence of younger, hungrier acts, Girls Names could find themselves not so much with Arms Around A Vision but fingertips around a record deal.


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