Music Reviews
Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost

(True Panther Sounds) Rating - 9/10

It seems impossible to talk about Father, Son, Holy Ghost without talking about all of the influences that appear and reappear throughout it, but doing so would make Girls’ sophomore album seem like a re-tread, though that is certainly not the case. Regardless, the abundance and prominence of the sleeve-worn influences almost demand a detailing. Die is an aggressive rocker with a brilliantly colored guitar tone and angry, confident soloing, but also a vocal line ripped straight out of Highway Star. Stand-out track Vomit is as notable for its quality, the band switches between long, angry guitar solos and devastating vocals in a blink of an eye, as it is for its beautiful Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Allman Brothers ending. Both Vomit and also Just A Song are Owens showing a love for Elliott Smith’s vocals, and a riff in Love Like A River is very similar to one in The Beatles’ I Want You, (She’s So Heavy).

But don’t make the easy mistake; saying that Girls sound like any of these bands would be erroneous. Guitar solos are angrier than the above southern rock bands ever went, and the guitars jangle more than Deep Purple’s ever did. Indeed, One of Girls’ biggest strengths is their interweaving guitar lines that, especially on Saying I Love You, have unapologetic reminiscence to Peter Buck and Johnny Marr. When you hear the solos though—and Father, Son, Holy Ghost has plenty of them—you are not thinking about R.E.M. or The Smiths, you are instead enthralled by a band that seems to be able to do shift to and from various styles in just one beat of a drum. Even during the choruses, when the guitars are chiming like bells or dancing their own musical ballet, you might say “this guitar reminds me of The Smiths,” but you certainly won’t say “this song sounds like The Smiths.” Even the most obviously lifted hooks come into new contexts here that let you shake off the lack of originality. A large part of that is Chet White’s layered, confident production, which occasionally gives songs like the carefree Honey Bunny a texture that made those old Beach Boys records so great. The important note there is that White isn’t trying to bury anything in his unexpectedly deep production; instead, he is showing that Owens’ songwriting is strong enough to make sure every instrument is doing something worthwhile at all times.

The only way a band could shake off such obvious and numerous influences is with unique and quality songwriting, and that is the only constant on Father, Son, Holy Ghost. From the aforementioned intricacies of the dual guitars to the background vocals that range from the light backing on My Ma to the charged on Vomit to the ability to pull off happy-go-lucky, three minute pop songs like Magic between six-and-seven-and-half minute tearjerkers Just A Song and Forgiveness, everything about Owens and White screams variety and confidence. Even those two lengthy tearjerkers—the latter of which lulls on for the record’s longest five minutes before a sudden but sensible shift to the album’s best solo—are tearjerkers for different reasons. While Just a Song is a display of hopelessness and defeat, Forgiveness is a song about just what the title says, where the heartfelt solo is played with just enough hope to make you smile as that last tear runs down your cheek. Owens' lyrics are as varied as his guitar parts and vocal lines.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is not without its faults. As mentioned, Forgiveness is uneven in its length, and the multitude of directions that Girls seems to be going is almost too much. They are displaying their ability to write any kind of song they want, which, unfortunately, comes with an occasional lack of focus. There is trouble staying on the emotional rollercoaster at times; the joyful ruckus delves too quickly into a contemplative misery. The quality of the tracks on the album is undeniable, but there is still some question about the cohesiveness of the album as a whole. While you certainly get off that emotional rollercoaster exactly where you wanted to, you might wonder how exactly you got there.

It must be said, the one influence that I was unable to shake was Big Star, and when Owens sings “I want to see the light of love/I’m looking for meaning in my life,” his delivery cannot help but bring to mind Alex Chilton’s plight, “Won’t you let me walk you home from school” all those decades ago. But a record that is both this good and a display of a band with so much more to show us does not come along often. So if I may paraphrase another lyric of Chilton, Girls is trying hard against unbelievable odds, and Father, Son, Holy Ghost is something you cannot miss. Don’t let Girls go the route of Big Star and remain unnoticed until it’s too late.