Girls Names Live Review For The BBC
April 17, 2010, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Live Reviews | Tags: , ,

Brighton’s all-girl art-garage trio La La Vasquez peddle a brilliant approximation of the (legendary garage rock compilation) ‘Nuggets’ sound. In true proto-punk style, between the spooked chants and tambourine heartbeats there’s a naivety that can’t contain their impetuousness and an undercurrent of forbidden teen-lust that would blanche a Shangri La. It’s dumb and dangerous, free-spirited and a little sassy. Before long it’s 1967 and we’re being shaken down for our cola-change by girl truants at a desert-town Dairy Queen.

Like Belfast’s Girls Names, it’s a sweetly inchoate sound with the dynamics remedial, the drums lean and tribal (neither band use a hi-hat) and the guitar clean but languorous; its crying out for a spoken-word interlude, something like: “You broke my heart/ so I slashed your tires”. As well as looking the part, the subject matter perfectly pastiches the prevailing sights and sounds of Sixties garage – the influence of California’s Mexican influx, flirtations with Middle-Eastern sounds and of course tales of the odd rumble, with ‘Clare Savage’ re-imagining Freya Vasquez’s brawl with a Mika Miko fan as a Tarantino Luau out. The prettiest creatures are sometimes the deadliest.

Of course the ‘sex = death’ equation is the centrifugal force at the heart of all good Sixties beat-pop and it’s what floods the milkshake punk stylings of top-billers Girls Names (newly accommodating of bassist ‘Caire Bear’). As drummer ‘Neel Peel’ concedes – it doesn’t get more complicated than ‘Love – Heartbreak – Death’. Like LLV, New York’s lo-fi label Captured Tracks is putting their home-recorded sound out, which is oneiric, spectral, always cute and never remiss of churning a good pop melody, with bottomless reverb acting as the salt-water conductor in a séance with dead youth, their souls forever trapped in monochrome Polaroids. It’s a kind off surfer noir, narrated by Cathal T Cully’s brackish murmurings that haunt the local breakpoints while a tremolo’d, trebly guitar rakes your exposed skin like glassy waves breaking on black sand. All the while, Peel is bludgeoning his sweetheart to death with a long-board below Venice Beach pier. Because they’re also enamored with the ‘messthetic’ tradition spanning Beat Happening and Cocteau Twins, to the Postcard bands and onto the millennial twee revival, it’s a more heartsick, nymphish (if faster tempo-ed) affair than conjured by the sultry Vasquez femmes and their tequila-soaked brand of profane lilting.

So, we know they have aesthetic. The presentation is immaculate; the most perfect configuration of genre signifiers and pop-cultural iconography hitherto evoked by any Northern Irish band in recent memory. It’s a timely blow for local art-rock at a time when our pop bands are primed to dent the charts for the first time since the mid-Nineties. What’s clear from tonight’s set though is that they also have the tunes, in abundance, chief amongst them being single ‘Graveyard’ which recalls an abbreviated version of Beat Happening’s ‘Godsend’, and is every bit as radiant. John Calvert

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