Christopher Owens – ‘Chrissybaby Forever’

The Girls man returns to his roots for his best solo record yet

Christopher Owens has never been easy one to figure out. The ex-Girls frontman has an amazing but tragic backstory – born into travelling Christian cult The Children Of God, he washed up in San Francisco as a teenager to discover punk rock and drug addiction – and has confounded expectations since his old band emerged in 2007. The 35-year-old – now clean and living happily with his girlfriend – dissolved Girls in 2012, but his life has been no less absorbing since. Owens’ solo output thus far has consisted of 2013’s wishy-washy ‘Lysandre’, which eschewed Girls’ catchy surf-rock for kitschy flutes and cheesy saxophones, and the Nashville-inspired country twang of last year’s ‘A New Testament’. Neither were comfortable fits, but ‘Chrissybaby Forever’, a surprise 16-track album recorded in San Francisco with close friend JJ Wiesler – who worked on Girls’ excellent 2010 EP ‘Broken Dreams Club’ – sees him return to his roots for his best solo record yet.

After a short intro, it opens with ‘Another Loser Fuck Up’, which boasts a jangly guitar line similar to 2008’s ‘Lust For Life’, Girls’ best single. It’s an immediate reminder of his past, and is followed by a series of nostalgic highlights like the Felt-indebted ‘Me Oh My’. Always an introspective lyricist, he broods over his songwriting process on the wry, Lennon-esque ‘Coffee And Tea’ while ‘Heroine (Got Nothing On You)’ – a not-too-subtle play on words – finds him yearning for the drug that once caged him (“All these pretty boys looking for their heroine/ I should know, ‘cause I need my heroine too”) over a breezy track that’s part dreampop, part Bobby Darin.

Owens recently admitted that criticism from fans led him to reexamine ‘Lysandre’ and there’s the odd moment here that leaves you wondering whether this is truly the kind of record he wants to make. The bitter ‘Waste Away’ and the sluggish, Sufjan Stevens-like ‘When You Say I Love You’ lack the emotiveness of his best songs, as if maybe his heart isn’t quite in them. But Owens remains a naturally intuitive pop songwriter, and ultimately ‘Chrissybaby Forever’ is a fresh slice of Californian good vibrations that arrives just in time for summer.