A cohesive, polished second collection from the San Francisco band.
Darren Loucaides 2011-09-06
Girls' 2009 debut, Album, demanded patience through its changes of pace and stabs at different styles, but it’s the verbosity of this more consistent follow-up, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, that means a similar level of endurance is needed. Songs are unfolded carefully, often over four minutes (three pass the six-minute mark), making for a total playtime of 54 minutes.
Of course, Album was slow in places too, but it was punctuated by runaway curveballs like Morning Light, Big Bad Mean Mother F***er, and the unforgettable opener, Lust for Life. It was also messy, sounding like it had been recorded in different places by different producers, with varying standards of recording apparatus.
This is a much more cohesive creation, building on the polish of their Broken Dreams Club EP, but pushing into deeper, more contemplative waters. The San Francisco duo deals in sorrow and heartbreak – with Album this meant instinctual outpouring; on Father, Son, Holy Ghost it means the painstaking carving of an elegant musical landscape. It’s lengthy, but the sensitivity of every guitar tickle and percussive touch, as well as main man Christopher Owens’ spellbinding voice, means that it is rarely boring.
The album actually begins with a fairly raucous thrust – there’s the bouncy, self-deprecating yet megalomaniacal Honey Bunny, and the galloping nod to early metal of Die. But with My Ma’s heart-wrenching melancholia, we begin to plunge into Owens’ private emotional world. Songs like Vomit plod along, occasionally giving way to controlled explosions, before plodding some more, like the ebb and flow of despair.
Even when Girls attempt to recover a jaunty pop aesthetic in Magic, the way Owens delicately mutters the words infects the song with vulnerability. Throughout, in fact, his voice is more self-possessed than on Album; instead of reckless exhalations of emotion, here the emotion’s internalised, and conveyed with an eyes-closed sincerity.
Closer Jamie Marie – a grown-up cousin of Album’s Lauren Marie – sounds like the very dead of night. Its beautiful, elegiac main riff winds along, wrapping around the fragile vocals before, in a final flourish, the drums sputter up alongside Bob Dylan-like keyboards. It’s like you’re draining your glass, taking a last spin on the dancefloor, and saying goodbye to all the stragglers in this desolate old blues-rock bar.