Father, Son, Holy Ghost – Girls (September 2011)

Christopher Owens is not interested in writing music about how he grew up in the infamous Children of God cult.  Owens is a lot more interested in writing music about girls.  His band, appropriately named Girls, put out Album in 2009 and the shorter Broken Dreams Club in 2010, and both of them knock my socks off.  His songs about the women he loves are easily more devastating than any he could write about his cult upbringings, although his heartbreak songs sometimes sound delightful.  Album was one of the most clichéd releases I had ever heard, sporting lines like “I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine,” “Laura baby, I’m right here,” and “I’ve got a high school crush on a California girls, oh yeah,” but the way that he wore his clichés with no shame was darling.  Broken Dreams Club improved on his craft, sporting Belle & Sebastian arrangements and a song called “Heartbreaker” so good (and sad) that I honestly think Led Zeppelin should be jealous.

Their third release in two years, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, impacted me at first not with its hooks or melodies but with its sonics.  A few songs in we hear “Die,” and suddenly there are distorted guitars everywhere.  The centerpiece of the album starts off calm and sulky in a way we have come to expect: “Nights I spend alone/I spend ‘em running ‘round looking for you, baby.”  Then the chorus explodes into heavy guitar, organ, and a backing choir while Owens repeats, “Looking for love.”  Breaking away from his mold of innocent guitar pop quite this suddenly is startling in and of itself, but did he have to go and call the song “Vomit”?  Owens is so sad on Father, Son, Holy Ghost that I am honestly a little worried about him.

Another sad one, maybe sadder, is “Saying I Love You”: “How can I say, ‘I want you’/Now that you’ve said, ‘I want you’?/Now that you’ve said everything that I said to you/To somebody new.”  That one and “Honey Bunny,” which is the cutest song of the year, are my favorites, and they carry the easy-to-swallow hooks that Album gave us.  “Honey Bunny,” which kicks off the album, is uncharacteristically happy.  This just serves to make the descent into “Die,” “Vomit,” and finally “Jamie Marie” that much more unnerving.

I could tell you where I rank Father, Son, Holy Ghost among the three Girls releases, but each is uniquely excellent.  This album took me time, because while the sound is impressive, the songwriting is less instantly gripping.  This is less pop and more rock, and this is rock by a guy that sounds very new to it.  Owens has taken a different approach to explore his sadness.  Joey the human being hopes that Owens cheers up, because listening to a guy this likeable constantly suffering is awfully sad, but Joey the music lover hopes that he aches forever.


Published in: on September 23, 2011 at 3:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

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