It may seem a little strange calling Girls a new band, as they were founded in 2007, and have just released their second album, but to many listeners, and particularly fans of guitar heavy rock, Girls are still a fresh name.
Truth be told, few bands have been more hyped than Girls in recent years. Unlike so many of their peers however, they haven’t made outlandish statements in the media and been rammed down our collective throats as “the next big thing” (see Viva Brother); instead they’ve consistently wowed both the critics and audiences across the world with their sound.
Their debut album, helpfully titled Album, flew under the commercial radar, but made the album of the year lists of all the major music publications, mixing impeccable illusions to Elvis Costello, Beach Boys and the California sound with scythingly earnest, utterly 21st century, songwriting.
Pitchfork proved most ardent in their praise of Album, perfectly capturing the bands oeuvre: “The canniness of Album's production choices and the scuzzy depression of the lyrics and the gut-level songwriting instincts, along with everything else about the record, add up to something elusive and fascinating-- maybe even heartbreaking.”
Before even the remotest dash of momentum could be lost, Girls unleashed the Broken Dreams Club LP. A record that simultaneously galvanized and expanded the band’s sound, pushing towards broader multi-instrumental compositions and songwriting that appeared both wide reaching and cinematic, a clear suggestion that this band was moving away from zippy three-chord indie and into more expansive territory.
Girls may posses a staggeringly broad sense of scope and imagination but at the band’s core are just two men Christopher Owens and Chet White. The two men met when lead vocalist and songwriter Christopher Owens arrived in California, instantly bonding over a shared a love of punk and hardcore, two sounds that oddly, in no way inform Girls’ music. Instead, Owens’ religious background has cast the longest shadow over the duo’s back catalogue.
As a child Owens moved across the world as a member of the Children Of God movement, a roaming religious group, prone to controversy, formed from within the hippie movement of the ‘60s. Owens escaped that life aged sixteen, having fallen under the influence of American pop culture, quickly setting his sights on a return to the US to live with his sister.
Once back in America, Owens, the former choirboy, became an uneducated grocery stacker by day, and a hardcore punk rocker by night in a band called Hubris. It was via the notably indie band Holy Fuck that Owens would eventually be united with White, a soul mate, with near identical musical taste, and a shared passion for a halluciengic drugs. The later of which would come a telling influence on Girls sound and ethos.
After the staggering debut Album and the enticing follow up Broken Dreams Club EP a huge weight of anticipation surrounded Girls second full LP Father, Son, And Holy Ghost. The level of expectation was ratcheted up to even greater heights when lead single “Vomit” emerged; a sprawling and disparate masterpiece, a hauntingly empty ballad that rides a chilling “Pretender”-esque riff down into the darkest depth of isolation.
Owens’ vocal carries a placeless menace. He filters ambiguously between disturbingly predatory, and depressively lonesome, as he coos: “nights are spent alone, I spend them running round, looking for you, baby”. The track then explodes with a spiraling distortion fueled solo that recalls Floyd, not in its precision, but in its unmistakable ability to create a bleak swirling whirlpool of sheer emotion. Remarkably this austere slab of dislocation ends with joyous tones, a catchy hook, and a female choir backing Owens, a true testament to both Girls newly expanded horizons and their newfound ability to manipulate mood through lengthy careful constructed migrating arrangements.
Father, Son, And Holy Ghost somehow managed to prove more spectacular and confounding than its epic six-minute lead single. Despite starting with two quick shots of delightful (albeit distressing) Californian indie (“Hunny Bunny”, “Alex”), the album soon explodes into a full on prog/pop/folk/druggy odyssey. Expectation is continually side stepped, most notably on “Die”, the album’s third track, which eschews sunshine pop in favour of a rollicking assault of galloping “Knights of Cyndonia” style guitars, complete with a suitably intergalactic solo, and a verse that’s straight out of Deep Purple’s play book.
From there on the album refuses to be pigeon holed as Owens explores rejection across a variety of mediums from sun kissed pop and Sixties pyschedelia to desolate starless skyline soloing to flickering folk reflections. Comparisons are plentiful, as Girls have an astounding grasp of music past, but no one sound, and no one band, can come to close to paralleling the scope of Father, Son, and Holy Ghosts’ catharsis.
Instead imagine a heartbroken beach bum Pink Floyd crash landed on a deserted Californian sea front in the 1960s with a biting sea wind blowing hard against their face, and you might just be on the right tracks.
If you thought Girls could be discarded as an incestuously catchy three-chord indie band, you could not be more wrong; they should feel as at home on the pages of Guitar Planet and Uncut as they do on the front cover of NME and Pitchfork.
For Fans Of: The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Smith Westerns, and 60s Psychedilia
Listen To: “Vomit”, “Die”, “My Ma”, “Oh So Protective One” and “Lust For Life”
Catch Them Live: Girls are on tour all across Europe this November.
November 8th: The Globe, Cardiff
November 9th: Electric Ballroom, London
November 11th: Stereo, Glasgow
November 12th: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
November 14th: Molotow, Hamburg
November 15th: Trix, Antwerp
November 17th: Werkstatt, Koln
November 18th: Laiterie, Strasbourg
November 19th: Maroquinerie, Paris
November 21st: Wuk, Vienna
November 22nd: Mascotte, Zurich
November 23rd: Plastic, Milan
November 29th: Lux Club, Lisbon
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