Girls Names Arms Around A Vision on LP
Northern Ireland's Girls Names formed in Belfast, but they've long considered themselves a European band. The distinction is important – their vision of Europe is one of weird, labyrinthian histories, blackest-ever-black coffee, and long drives to dismal places. Romantic notions for those of a certain disposition, but behind the thousand-yard stares they've always been a soft-hearted lot. As the title of third album Arms Around a Vision would suggest, they're all set to let love in.
On Arms Around a Vision, they're more widescreen than ever but also more direct and aggressive. The bass, drums and guitars are still there, but so are saxophones, organs, detuned broken guitars and pianos, and even sheets of metal assaulted with hammers. Conceptually, Arms Around a Vision acts as a love letter to European elegance – Italian futurism, Russian constructivism, Germany's Zero Group and both Neubaten and Bowie's Berlin.
Love and pain, romance and fucking. It's all in there somewhere. Grand claims, perhaps, but in an ever bleak world, why not skygaze? The album opens with "Reticence," a song in two parts that's half metallic knockout, half midnight swagger. It sounds unlike anything they've ever done before, and is a perfect primer for an album that treads a course between Eno-era Roxy sleaze, Birthday Party dissonance and M.E.S' three R's: repetition, repetition, repetition.
As confident as it sounds, hardship has equally played a role in shaping Arms Around a Vision. "I'm not starving or anything, but I've practically been living hand to mouth since I was 22," confirms Cully. "Most guitar music now is just a playground for the rich middle classes and it's really boring and elitist. We're elitist in our own way, in that we're on our own and you can't fuck with us when we've nothing to lose". The near-6 minute "A Hunger Artist" tackles that subject full on, addressing that age old adage of suffering for one's art.
While the songs aren't narrative-driven as such – the band still generally favor abstraction and ambiguity – there is a consistent underlying message: "We've got nothing. We've never had anything. And we don't expect to. The only person I ever wanted to impress was myself. I've never got anywhere close to succeeding in doing that until this album. I'm proud of it. I think I can start saying I'm a musician now."