Album review: Girls - 'Album' (Fantasytrashcan/Turnstile)
Beyond the 'much talked about' tag is something really special
Lead singer and songwriter Christopher Owen was raised in a cult where pop music was banned, women sold themselves for sex and several members were driven to suicide. Want more juicy anecdotes? Christopher’s first guitar was given to him by ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer (who was also in the cult) and, since then, the Girls singer’s life seems to have been a blur of prescription drugs (fentanyl patches are his favourite), punk rock shows and art happenings. Hanging out with White Lies, you assume, is not like this.
Yet these tales won’t overshadow Girls’ music, because the songs are very much a product of the stories. The religious music of the cult has clearly inspired the Spiritualized-esque gospel vibes of ‘Hellhole Ratrace’, while the lyrics – as simple and honest as any by Brian Wilson or Jason Pierce – could only really come from a damaged soul who’d spent too much of his childhood cut off from the real world (the craftily-titled ‘Lust for Life’ contains the heartbreaker: “I wish I had a father/Maybe then I would have turned out right”).
These hippy-dippy missives are given a spine thanks to Chet ‘JR’ White’s studio trickery, recording in bedrooms in what appears to be some frazzled quest to make a lo-fi ‘Pet Sounds’. The results capture the sun-baked, slacker vibe of San Francisco as effortlessly as the Velvets soundtracked New York or the Monkeys summed up Sheffield.
In a world of cynical bandwagon jumping, careerist indie and – yes – quotes over chords, Girls are genuine drop-outs, bona-fide freaks who’ve made a record far removed from the predictable cycles of the music industry. Now that’s a real story.
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