The early lineup of the band featured Smordynia, guitarist Marc Deprez, and drummer/keyboard player Christophe Den Tandt, with Robert Frankson and singer Isabelle Hanrez also briefly being members. After local gigs as The Passengers, they changed their name in time for their debut single, "Spectators of Life", released by WEA in 1979 to test the market for home-grown new wave music.
The band were keen to sign to a British label, and connected with Factory Records at a Joy Division gig at the Plan K venue in Brussels. The Names recorded "Nightshift" in Manchester in August 1980, with producer Martin Hannett, now with drummer Luc Capelle in the band. The single was representative of their overall sound: dark, controlled modern rock in the mould of Magazine, Comsat Angels and Joy Division/early New Order. It peaked at number 35 on the UK Indie Chart. In February 1982 the band recorded a session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show.
The Names enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with mercurial producer Hannett, who also oversaw their next single "Calcutta" (Factory Benelux, 1981) and debut album Swimming (Les Disques du Crepuscule, 1982; reissued several times since). A motorcycle accident for Capelle saw Michel Silverstein step in as a replacement while he recovered.
The group played live mostly in the Benelux countries and France, including the ambitious Crepuscule multimedia package Dialogue North-South in February 1982. The group had also been booked to appear in Manchester in July 1980 as support to A Certain Ratio at the Beach Club. When The Names were delayed, New Order stepped in for their first live performance after the end of Joy Division.
In 1995 the original core trio of Smordynia, Deprez and Christophe Den Tandt (keyboards) reunited as Jazz, releasing one album, Nightvision.
In December 2007, The Names reunited for a gig during A Factory Night (once again). In April 2009, they released a new album, Monsters Next Door, on the Str8line label. Christophe Den Tandt left the band in December 2009 and was replaced by Christophe Boulenger. Since then, The Names have appeared live in Italy and France.
- Discovery (4:19) / Floating World (2:52) / The Fire (3:39) / Life by the Sea (4:50) / White Shadow (5:08) // (This Is) Harmony (5:41) / Shanghai Gesture (5:11) / Leave Her to Heaven (4:48) / Light (4:20)
- Swimming + Singles (CD, Factory Benelux FBN-9-CD, 1991)
- Monsters Next Door (CD, Str8line S8L-TN01/7, April 2009)
- I Am a Stranger Here Myself (3:09) / Flesh Wounds (5:27) / I Liked You Better When You Were Dead (5:33) / Friendly Fire (7:58) / Welcome to Your Real Life (4:23) / Halloween in June (3:08) / Zeroes (5:27) / Never Change (4:54) / Traces (3:39) / Arcadia (5:19) / Dreamless (4:39) / In Time (5:39)
- Swimming (CD, Factory Benelux FBN-9-CD, 2013)
- Discovery / Floating World / The Fire / Life by the Sea / White Shadow / Harmony / Shanghaï Gesture / Leave Her to Heaven / Light / Calcutta / Postcards / Nightshift / Discovery (Peel Session) / Life by the Sea (Peel Session) / (This Is) Harmony (Peel Session) / Shanghaï Gesture (Peel Session)
- Swimming (2×LP, Factory Benelux FBN-9, 2013)
- Discovery / Floating World / The Fire / Life by the Sea / White Shadow / Nocturne // Harmony / Shanghaï Gesture / Leave Her to Heaven / Light /// Music For Someone / Calcutta / Nightshift / The Astronaut / Spectators of Life // Discovery (Peel Session) / Life by the Sea (Peel Session) / (This Is) Harmony (Peel Session) / Shanghaï Gesture (Peel Session)
- Postcard Views (cassette, LTM Recordings, November 1985)
- Spectators of Life (CD, LTM Recordings LTMCD-2320, 2001)
- Spectators of Life (3:01) / White Life (3:03) / The Drive (1:58) /Nothing to Fear (5:32) / Foreign Rendezvous (4:27) / Actually (4:02) / Memories (3:55) / Nightshift (3:20) / Mirrors (3:04) / Questions and Answers (3:12) / I Wish I Could Speak Your Language (4:52) / Other Enquiries (3:19) / Burn (4:06) / Tokyo Twilight (3:46) / Shining Hours (4:52) / Revenge (4:35) / Virtual (5:06) / I'm In Love With a German Film Star (4:47) / Ballade a Tervuren (2:09)
- Spectators of Life (2:55) // White Life (3:00) / The Drive (1:55) (7"/12", WEA/Celluloid, 1979)
- Night Shift / I Wish I Could Speak Your Language (7", Factory FAC-29, January 1981)
- Calcutta (3:02) / Postcards (3:43) (7", Factory Benelux FBN-9, 1982)
- Soul Kitchen (4:25) / Revenge (4:37) (7"/12", Crammed Discs CRAM-5457/CRAM-54512, 1981)
- released as By Chance
- The Astronaut // Shining Hours / Revenge (12", Les Disques du Crépuscule TWI-111, 1982)