Girls Album(True Panther) Buy it from Insound
So by now I’m guessing you’ve heard all about Girls. No? Oh come on, where have you been for the past few months? Which hot new band have you been listening to? Ok, a quick recap for the uninitiated – Girls is a San Francisco-based duo comprising Christopher Owens (long hair, languid vocals, Children of God cult background) and Chet “J.R.” White (short hair, bass, er, used to be a chef). Is that enough back-story for you? No? There’s more – Owens escaped the cult as a teenager, got into drugs and punk rock, and was rescued by a millionaire philanthropist – but this is all extensively documented on the web (and every other review of Album) so let’s leave it there shall we?
Prior to Album, the only Girls track I’d really listened to was Hellhole Ratrace, an excellent yet slightly overlong anthem about overcoming heartbreak and despair. While my hopes for Album were reasonably high, I’d been slightly suspicious about some of the overwhelmingly positive early reviews; I assumed that Girls would struggle to better Hellhole Ratrace and that a lot of the critics had probably allowed themselves to get caught up in Owens’ genuinely amazing back-story.
Album only needed six minutes to blow my first assumption out of the water. Lust for Life and Laura are shorter, sharper and more effective pop songs than Hellhole Ratrace; while Ratrace sounds like a druggy dream-pop number, these tunes hint at an appreciation for summery 70’s power-pop. Crucially, both styles seem to suit Christopher Owens effective lyrics, which generally address personal issues (heartbreak, the absent father, unrequited love, or just “not quite being right”) in fairly honest, even simplistic terms.
Unfortunately, the rest of Album struggles to match the explosive one-two punch of its opening.
Ghost Mouth starts off strongly, but there’s something about the song’s structure that doesn’t quite feel right; it soon becomes apparent that this is the sound of the rot setting in. God Damned sounds awful, like it was recorded in cramped toilet through a Dictaphone, while Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker is a reverb-drenched surf-rock novelty that is completely at odds with, and very nearly spoils Hellhole Ratrace, the track that follows it.
But while side A is full of dramatic peaks and troughs, side B closely resembles a long stretch of characterless terrain. There are only two minor highlights – the shoegazey Morning Light and the mid-tempo finale Darling – which, to be brutally honest, hardly justify the investment.
For a record being hailed as a minor pop masterpiece in some quarters, Album seems remarkably uneven. Its title, in fact, strikes me as something of a misnomer; it sounds more like a collection of singles and throwaway b-sides. Don’t get me wrong, Album’s best songs (Lust for Life, Laura, and Hellhole Ratrace) are utterly essential, but take these out of the equation and there’s really very little to get excited about. Unless you count the band’s back-story, that is.7 October, 2009 - 16:36 — David Coleman