Monday, September 12, 2011

REVIEW: Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Buzz is a hell of a thing. It can launch the careers of bands or cripple them before they even make it to that sophomore album. In 2009, singer/songwriter/guitarist Christopher Owens and bassist/producer Chet “JR” White (aka Girls) released one of the strongest debut albums of the year with Album – and the buzz soon followed. But unlike many of their contemporaries, Girls proved that all the critical praise and attention was warranted. The following year, they released the 6-song EP Broken Dreams Club (which might as well have been a full-length), maturing into a seasoned band with songs that played like overlooked gems from decades past. The upward trend continues on the band’s official sophomore LP, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, an album that’s both eclectic and compelling.

At heart, Father, Son, Holy Ghost is a rock ‘n’ roll record with traces of Southern roots, rich with the sounds of inspiring gospel, heartwarming soul, and the honest, no frills storytelling of country music – making this their most well rounded effort to date. By seamlessly mixing that rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, soul, and country with elements of ‘50s pop, folk, psych, and indie rock, Girls create an album that’s effective, dynamic, and quite accomplished. There are plenty of bands that try to emulate the past and play it off as original, but Girls sound genuine, like time traveling vagabonds that have soaked in the sounds of past generations. From the lonesomeness of Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison to the dreamy, pop charm of bands like Felt and Galaxie 500, Girls strike a balance between their diverse influences to create a singular sound that suites them incredibly well.

Christopher Owens lyrics tend to be more on the simplistic side of things, but, in this case, it’s what he leaves out – what he doesn’t say – that leaves the biggest impression. There’s a certain amount of openness to his words and delivery that make the music, and the stories contained within, both relatable and, simply, direct. It’s why each of the 11 songs that make up Father, Son, Holy Ghost sound as though they were made for the jukebox; these are songs ready to have a needle dropped on them while you fill that void heartache opened in the pit of your stomach with a beer or two.

Overall, Girls are, relatively, more brooding here than they were on Album and Broken Dreams Club, and it makes for one deep, sincere collection of songs; it’s emotional without the theatrics and exaggerated delivery – they give you just enough to get it. There’s an understated air of confidence in the execution that does a lot to add some muscle to even the more downtempo tracks. Opener “Honey Bunny” could have been overly sweet and innocent, but the surf rock/’50s pop cut rolls along with enough action to keep it from becoming too much of a cliché. The multi-faceted “Die” displays a new sense of adventure for the band, starting off with a gargle of fuzzed-out chords that gives way to explosive, but tasteful, guitar soloing. The country-tinged confessional “My Ma” is beautifully chilling with soulful background vocals, organ, and shades of reverb. “Vomit” is anything but what its title might suggest, with its spiritual undertones and expansive, gospel-infused rock ‘n’ roll; it builds and builds until it’s final minute where everything is released and it begins to feel rather transcendental. There’s really something to say for every song.

People will undoubtedly find a different band on here compared to that young band that debuted a few years ago. But Girls have moved from the charm of that early immediacy on Album to the impressive maturity displayed throughout Father, Son, Holy Ghost. It’s often discussed that bands with strong debuts often tend to stick with a similar formula on the ever-important sophomore effort. Girls have made a great record that expands on their past work instead of playing it safe with a tried-and-true approach. And while every track may not carry as much power as “Alex” or “Vomit,” Father, Son, Holy Ghost is, altogether, powerful, especially when the band expands on conventional song structure, venturing off on well-timed, well-placed instrumental breaks that only serve to strengthen the album’s overall resolve. “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” Girls have a Trinity all their own: hope, love, and the ghost of God. Here’s a record that won’t soon be forgotten.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is out tomorrow via True Panther Sounds.

Girls - "Vomit"

Listen to the whole album below.

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost via artsandcraftsmx

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