Thursday, November 10, 2011

Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Of all the retro influenced indie bands on the way up, Girls have the most interesting backstory, leader Christopher Owens having grown up as part of a religious cult. Yet for all the drama surrounding the band's past and the reportedly drug fueled making of their debut, Album, they've been a relatively forgettable band for me. At times on their Album they sounded like a more glossy and professional version of Wavves (like on 'Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker'). With more listens, my opinion of it has dulled slightly over the past couple years. By and large the band's reach surpassed their grasp, giving their music the feeling of a group trying on other sounds instead of forging their own.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost continues this “trying on sounds” feel though it is more successful at it. 'Die' posits the band as Black Mountain-esque 70s inspired rockers though not as beefy or slavishly retro. If Girls still haven't perfected their own sound, this record is at least entertaining because they're trying on some new hats and doing it well. Moreso than the debut, this is a record of ambition. It's telling that only three of the songs are less than four minutes long, with 'Vomit', 'Just A Song', and 'Forgiveness' offering just enough ideas and wrinkles to justify their length. Meanwhile, tracks 'Saying I Love You' and 'Magic' continue Girls's reverence for classic 70s AM pop music, though they sound too similar to Album and their influences to be true standouts.

Unlike many of their retro influenced contemporaries, Girls lack any true experimental, psychedelic, or noisy influences. This isn't to say their music is always easy or simple, as the above mentioned long songs testify to...yet even at their most extreme, the songs of Father, Son, Holy Ghost are more akin to, say, Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? or the less extreme bizarro moments of A Wizard, A True Star than they are other 70s experimental pop like Brian Eno's solo albums. Where Rundgren tipped his cap to 1950s/1960s R&B, Girls do so to the music of his era. Rundgren, however, put enough weird elements and eccentric lyrics in those albums to make them far more than just barely-original songs aping the past. Unfortunately, I still get this feeling when I listen to Father, Son, Holy Ghost, even if it is, yes, a bit better than their debut at avoiding it.

Actually, that's a good summation of Girls' second album as a whole: it's a bit better than their debut. It took me more time to get tired of it, and as a whole it's, well, better. But only by a bit. Considering the wild backstory as mentioned in the opening of this review, it's a little disconcerting how, well, orderly and normal the band's albums have been so far. If the band would forge more of their own identity or go off in some weird directions, they might be capable of something truly great.
4 Pooly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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