Upon first listen, Arms Around a Vision is all too easily dismissible. Pleasant enough, the overwhelmingly similarities track-to-track leave it undistinguishable as a work of it’s own. It’s only on closer inspection that this album truly comes to life.
The opening track ‘Reticence’ opens with promise. A slow-burning, hurtling of guitars and moody bass prepares you for a frantic and hostile tune that never arrives. Instead, the drawn out introduction not only tests the patience, but renders itself utterly anti-climatic as it changes vibe entirely; finally settling on a more upbeat and lucky tone. Both vibes are perfectly adequate but seem disjointed from each other and serve only as a disappointment to the promising, dissonant, foreboding of the starting sound.
“Quivering keyboards, frantic guitars and eerie synth lines vibrate violently throughout the track creating a dark, brooding, new romantic vibe”
Instead of the expected post-punk promise, the track falls back to an indistinguishable indie standard, very reminiscent of The Cribs’ third album. Attempts by the band to make it their own fall flat as the song collapses back into a thrashing, moody conclusion that does little to elevate it’s effect. The track is deliberately fragmental, but more in the manner of a confused teenage band rather than a deliberate work of artistry.
‘An Artificial Spring’ follows in a similar vein. It is not a bad song, but unfortunately it is easily dismissible. The pop-punk sound of the song does not match Cully’s deep vocals nor his lyricism. The track seems destined to have a catchy and memorable chorus but never quite meets it’s destination.
Desire Oscillations’ is far superior. Quivering keyboards, frantic guitars and eerie synth lines vibrate violently throughout the track creating a dark, brooding, new romantic vibe. Together with Cully’s bruised crooning, this is the track that finally showcases the band’s ability. Yes, it is very similar in sound to bands such as Editors – but their musical artifice works for them due to it’s less polished, more aggressive production. They manage to make the track entirely their own.
‘Chrome Rose’ opens with a sexy, almost psychedelic bass, and a drumming that beautifully slows down into an spectral, soft echo. The track descends into Cully eerily drawling “get back to the end”, before exploding with guitars. ‘Chrome Rose’ gives due attention to Cully’s highly romanticised lyrics that can rival Morrissey in melancholy. Hurling out, “I hate you all; you and your friends are no friends of mine”, Cully produces lyrics that are an emotional fourteen-year-old’s Tumblr dream. Making it less emo-rock, the track crawls into a clattery end that leaves you digesting such an intense, emotional roller-coaster.
The barren, drawn out synth conclusion to ‘Malaga’ makes ‘Dysmorphia’ all the more memorable. It’s hurling twist into screeching synths and thrashing guitars brutally forces your attention, and you have to appreciate the track. The post-punk influences resonate heavily here, and it is not unlike the brooding tracks from The Horrors’ more recent albums.
“Girls Names make good use of their influences, but it is those blatant influences that also leave them dismissible to the listener”
After the electronic interlude of ‘Convalescence’, the final triad of tracks exploit the band’s haunting, brooding gloominess. ‘Exploit Me’ features moody textures and an 80s, eerie synth whilst Cully laments “How can I protect you when I can’t protect myself”. It’s all too easy to connect with his lyrics and fall into his emotional turmoil. ‘I Was You’ concludes the album with slow, murmuring vocals, and if you weren’t paying attention, you could easily mistake Cully for Ian Curtis. The track succeeds in clinching the album in a menacing, cynical conclusion.
Arms Around a Vision is a divisive record. Whilst it will never be one that immediately captures interest, it certainly is a grower. Girls Names make good use of their influences, but it is those blatant influences that also leave them dismissible to the listener. It is an album that must be engaged with and take time to appreciate; there are no stand out tracks but the album works well as a whole. If the time is taken to fully appreciate the album, then it becomes an interesting and enjoyable listen.