Girls Names have delved into gloomier territory since their 2011 debut ‘Dead To Me’: the Belfast quartet have replaced fizzy guitar lines, playful rhythms and elemental melodies with a brooding evocation of their post-punk forefathers, employing a caliginous aesthetic that refers to early Smiths, Movement-era New Order and specifically The Cure. It was certainly a good move; ‘The New Life’ is a statement of intent, signalling a change in pace and expanded horizons – it’s an austere but more refined evolution from its predecessor, and tonight Girls Names bring their new-found appreciation of the macabre to The Cockpit Leeds.
The two supports come from Leeds based Fun Adults and London trio Cymbals; the former, with a name that suggests impish “party band”, instead deliver a mature sound and an affinity for stuttering beats and interrupted cadences, whilst also exhibiting an aptitude for intricate harmonies. The latter are a little more jovial in their approach to making noise: a leading guitar sound dominates underlying tinges of funk and draws an increasingly ample crowd in for the headline act, who, at first, appear to be juxtaposed naysayers to the blitheness that preceded them.
Indeed, on first inspection – Girls Names do appear to have lost the surf-rock buoyancy that made their previous performances so energetic, but their dark dispositions are not lost under relentless melancholy. Despite the band’s deviation into the funereal, their melodic impulses are still there lurking beneath the surface. Claire’s bass rumbles are more resonant and jump out in the same vein as Peter Hook’s, but atonal notes and dark FX coalesce with sweet C86 melodies that are noticeably lucid, even more so than on record. All of the aforementioned sound particularly prevalent during ‘Pittura Infamante’ where Cathy Cullen’s spectral baritone muffles under biting guitar, swirling synth and skewed guitar drones , while songs from Dead To Me follow suit and are welcomed intruders that don’t seem particularly out of place.
They continue to play a set comprising mainly of material from ‘The New Life’: each song plummets into the next, forming a menagerie of sounds that merge into something menacing and intense. Claire’s bass lines pound and shudder incessantly during ‘Drawing Lines’ while crashing drums envelope shimmering, disjointed guitar chords on the ominous ‘The Olympia’ where the tracks schizophrenic nature weaves in and out of cacophonous and jaunty. Dreamy electronic textures prevail on the more placid ‘Occultation’, descending into a hypnotic groove. They conclude with ‘The New Life’, a highlight of the evening where eternal guitar lines skulk and swell monotonously into the darkness – toward a mesmeric finale – signalling a close and showcasing a sound that is still at home in its post-punk sensibilities as much as it is reliant on its gothic idiosyncrasies. There’s nothing particularly unfamiliar here tonight, but Girls Names have at least breathed new life into this over-recycled genre, reminding us of a sound that never fails to conquer in small, dark venues.