Girls ‘Album’ – Review

3 Oct

Every feature and review of this band that I have so far read has started by giving a brief history of its lead singer. Ok,  this man has one heck of an interesting story, even by this industry’s standards, but for me it just detracts from the music. For him too you suspect because he called the album, ‘Album’, as if to ask us to focus on the music and nothing else. So I will.

At it’s heart ‘Album’ is a classic pop recod with rock n roll vigour pouring through its veins. It has a DIY aesthetic that makes this sound like a long lost treasure as well as a glimpse into the future. And underneath the fuzz and feedback of tracks like ‘Morning Light’ and ‘God Damned’ there is such a sweet heart, a heart that has been broken many times. Christopher Owens has clearly been messed up by a long list of things; but ignore the Cult, the pills, suicides etc and top of the list is women. The persecutors are named and shamed here, ‘Laura’, ‘Lauren Marie’, as well as you suspect numerous more unnamed. After all I heard about the band I was surprised to find that the majority of these tracks are very laid back; acoustic, classic songs of heartbreak. ‘Ghost Mouth’ and ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ are two such tracks, both featuring that classic ‘Be My Baby’  drumbeat, pretty guitars and overwhelmingly evocative vocals. The lyrics are at times very morbid, ‘I’ve got a sad song in my sweet heart, and all i really am is needing some love and attention’. But the very fact that this album has been made suggests that Owens now has an optemistic attitude, an attitude (as the final track ‘Darling’ suggests) that has been discovered through music.

It has been compared to a lo-fi Pet Sounds, but it would be much more accurate to describe it as a lo-fi ‘Today’, Pet Sounds predecessor. Like Brian Wilson on Today, Girls know the power of sitting high energy rockers alongside the slower more emotional numbers. The first track, ‘Lust For Life’, is one of the best singles of the year and it kicks of the album brilliantly. The chord progression is deceptively simple and old fashioned, the sound of someone steeped in the music of everyone from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello. It’s lyrical content is jarring, ‘I wish I had a boyfriend, I wish I had a loving man in my life’, and delivered in a conversational manner with no punches spared – ‘You’ve been a bitch, I’ve been an ass’. He strikes like a wounded animal and seems to instantly regret his fiery temper and directness – This is equally an album of apology as it is an album of sorrow, regret and rage. As the band name suggests, girls are at the forefront of Owen’s mind.

The more upbeat moments are also cheap and cheerful stabs at classic sounds, and they hit the mark perfectly. The songs don’t sound poured over at all, rather they sound like they were written and recorded in the haze of a party, when the alcohol and pills were taking over. And though they sound like many a classic Beach Boy or Roy Orbison track, these songs hold delicious twists in both music and lyrics. ‘I’ve got a High School crush on a California Girl oh yeah’, sings Owens on one song and it could be any surf song from the early sixties, albeit one recorded on the cheapest set up available. Then in the next line he sings ‘I’ve got a cool guitar and a bag of marijuana man’, and suddenly all has changed. The song is unexpectedly called ‘Big Bad Mean Motherfucker’.

‘Album’ is one of the most interesting releases of the year. It perfectly captures the essence of pop music and then rids it of all the excess and unnecessary production that has become a by-product of the digital age. This is a forward thinking and highly enjoyable record that fortunately seems to be at the forefront of a new line of albums with similar sensibilities. It will be fascinating to see where Girls go next and whether their second album will capture the same energy and lo-fi buzz, or whether they will take advantage of the opportunities available to them and go for a more produced and crafted sound that was rejected here. Right now though you need this ‘Album’ in your life.

8.5/10

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