It’s always inspiring to see an Irish act getting international attention, even more so to see them on an international label. For that alone, Belfast trio Girls Names deserve some kudos for getting a U.S. release on cult label Slumberland Records, home of Crystal Stilts and Pains of Being Pure at Heart. It’s a perfect fit for the band. The jangly C86 sound they purvey is out of the ordinary for the average Belfast act and it is not only Slumberland’s specialty, but also a style in a serious revival at the moment, one the band could too easily get lost in.
On their debut album, the band show they can certainly work the tools of the trade. Frontman Cathal Cully’s vocals sound lost in ghostly reverb while his guitar delivers chiming Johnny Marr-style fretwork. The rhythm section is classic garage rock, all rollicking bass lines and pounding tom drums. There are even the obligatory classic pop references, with Cully crooning “Bury me in a wall of sound” on ‘Bury Me’, as well as the token use of the ‘Be My Baby’ drum beat on ‘I Lose’. On the surface there isn’t a lot to mark the band out from more established peers like The Vaccines or Dum Dum Girls, nor from the masses of their indie pop ancestors.
That said, Dead to Me is not wholly bereft of its own voice. Instead of opting for twee romanticism, tracks like ‘Kiss Goodbye and ‘When You Cry’ weld pop melodies to maudlin lyrics of heartache. The willingness to take the moodier road less travelled gives the album its own sense of character at times. Yet, while it’s a taut, affable effort with some great moments, it strays too close to the formulaic to truly leave its mark.