Thursday, September 22, 2011

Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost REVIEW

It’s hard to believe the outfit of singer/songwriter Christopher Owens has scarcely been on the map for three years. Both of Girls’ previous offerings, 2009’s Album and 2010’s Broken Dreams EP, indicated a group of musicians unafraid of embracing a well-seasoned disposition while simultaneously pushing onward with all things retro. This approach has caused Girls to seem almost wise regarding the subject of irony on their records. True, the familiarity of their music is abundantly clear to the listener and the band itself. But Girls makes no excuses for their inspiration, instead opting to slap fresh, tasteful coats of sound onto the established medium. Owens owes it to the talent of his songwriting and band that this technique often stops just short of novel gimmickry. However, as good as Girls has been over the past two years (and make no mistake about it, all the way through last year’s EP, Girls has been really, really good), nothing prepared listeners for the truly awesome piece of work that is Father, Son, Holy Ghost. An alternately tender and frenetic mosaic of genre homage, the album stands alone- ironically thanks to all the seemingly disjointed influences that work together as cohesive support.

From a production standpoint, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, is one of the most technically flawless of the year- yet, that’s probably the least interesting thing about the album itself. As is usually the case with much of Owens’ music, the songs here mostly concern longing, for bonds of both intimacy and familial. He is a songwriter without qualms about firmly wearing emotions upon his sleeve. This can often lead to pretentious oversaturation- but Owens is able to effectively spread the thematic wealth. Sunshiney opener “Honey Bunny” sets the stage with a self-deprecating ballad via uptempo surf-rock bubblegum; it’s a brilliant genre exercise and would be a fine tonesetter for a lesser, yet admirably proficient offering. On Father, Son, Holy Ghost, though, it is merely part of the palette. This radio-friendly breeziness pops up sporadically across the album’s eleven tracks- most notably with “Alex”, “Saying I Love You (where Owens does his best Jackson Browne)”, and “Magic” recalling artists from E.L.O to Mika. Owens has a penchant for pushing songs into unforeseen directions- “Die” begins with a late 70s guitar solo in the vein of Deep Purple or Golden Earring. Once this nostalgic arrangement grows comfortable, the song downshifts into a beautiful, symphonic mellotron yielding Girls’ first “Wait! They can’t do that!” moment on the album. The highlight, however, of Father, Son, Holy Ghost lies in its revitalizing center where Owens seems to channel equal parts Neil Young, Sonic Youth, and Sea Change-era Beck. “My Ma”, “Vomit”, and “Just a Song” are a delicate collection of songs as warm as they are penetrating. These not only bridge the gap to the epic “Forgiveness” and the bluesy Fats Domino-inspired “Love Like a River”, but they establish a connection to a core pathos that has previously eluded the band. Father, Son, Holy Ghost refuses to merely be competent. This album is designed to not only take the listener by surprise, but by the jugular as well. It is resoundingly about something. And even if its parts are recycled from past familiarities, it manages to shed new perspective as to why those parts are familiar to us in the first place.


Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost by artsandcraftsmx

- Fr. Jones
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