'Cutting Shapes' from Earl Grey by Girl Ray
This may come as something as a shock, but if I am brutally honest Girl Ray’s Earl Grey set was one of my biggest disappointments of 2017. Don’t get me wrong, it is an excellent record filled with many tiny jewels, but somehow I was hoping for more. Maybe last year’s magical 7" ‘Trouble’ and the preview ‘singles’ of ‘Preacher’ and ‘Stupid Things’ set expectations too high for the remainder of the set to reach, but whatever, I have to admit that rarely did I play ‘Earl Grey’ through in its entirety. Why the inclusion in this advent series then if it was such a disappointment? Well, to be fair, there is enough in Earl Grey even as it is to put most young new groups to shame. Which is likely a most unfair statement to make because let’s be entirely frank and admit that I have next to no awareness of any other young new group with whom I might make comparison so perhaps really I should shut up like mealy mouthed fifty somethings ought.
Here’s the thing though: Girl Ray slip neatly next to Goon Sax as being somehow instilled with a spirit that is splendidly unexpected in groups of just-about-still-teenagers. By which I mean I hear something of the spirit of Postcard and/or The Raincoats and Marine Girls within these grooves and that is certainly something to celebrate. Entirely possible of course that the girls of Girl Ray might mumble ‘who now? What now?’ before telling me in no uncertain terms that their references are instead (insert list of contemporary Pop sounds of which I have not the slightest inkling). In reality either parallel universe is fine. Inhabit whichever best fits and hop, skip and/or jump betwixt the two as the mood takes you.
Like Hinds (who they also put me in mind of at times) Girl Ray hop, skip and/or jump with marvellous (un)ease. It is their disarming only-just-discordant barely-held-together-with-sellotape sound that makes Girl Ray so tempting and I don’t think that’s in evidence any clearer than within the terrific ‘Cutting Shapes’. Starting off with just Poppy Hankin’s almost-out-of-tune vocal over a plonked piano, ‘Cutting Shapes’ slopes off down an alleyway into a darkening, glowering middle distance of guitar and organ accompaniement before entering a dense forest of swirling noises made by those clay model members of The Velvet Underground of B&S’s ‘Expectations’. It ends abruptly at a brick wall graffitied with ‘Girl Ray’ picked out in glitter.
Let’s just hope that Poppy and her mates know how to vault its heights, because there are any number of intriguing avenues for them to explore in the future. We should certainly hang around to see what they make of them.