A strong debut boasting a number of surprising twists and stylistic turns.
Rob Webb 2009
The story goes that Girls' singer/songwriter Christopher Owens spent the first 16 years of his life travelling with his mother in a separatist cult that forbade access to mainstream culture. His only exposure to popular music in that time came from the cult's own religious songs, and the occasional Everly Brothers or Beatles record that the more rebellious kids smuggled in from the outside.
His songwriting on the band's debut album – drawing on both the above – is shot through with a wide-eyed sense of wonderment, the kind that presumably comes from escaping that confinement as a teenager and discovering all of the normal vices associated with being that age.
Much of what's here certainly appears to be autobiographical: "I wish I had a father / And maybe then I would have turned out right," drawls Owens on opening track Lust For Life, and several tracks reference his nomadic upbringing. Two are named after girls (Laura and Lauren Marie), and the majority make at least some reference to relationships.
Still, that's far from an uncommon theme in pop music, the genre Girls fit into most comfortably. Theirs is an older, sepia-tinged notion of pop, with the Everly Brothers' influence looming large – most notably on Headache, a shimmering arpeggio-driven love song, and Ghost Mouth, which borrows the infamous Be My Baby drum beat.
The song which best embodies Girls, though, is Hellhole Ratrace: "I've got a sad song in my sweet heart / And all I really am is needing some love and attention," laments Owens with brutal honesty on this brooding psychedelic number. It's a great example of bass player Chet White's inventive production, which sets and builds the mood masterfully over the course of the track's seven minutes.
View it if you like as a document of disaffected youth, but beyond the unusual back story Girls' debut is a pop record stronger than most with a number of surprising twists and stylistic turns. Though it's perhaps a little saccharine in places for some tastes, the unswervingly strong melodies win out and cast the duo very much as ones to watch for the future.