This review was originally posted by guest contributor Peter Lanceley on his own blog, This Music Wins, which you can visit to discover much more new music.
Girls are a set of 60s revivalist musicians, partly because it's the music they love, and partly because its all lead singer Christopher Owens was ever exposed to during his childhood and teenage years. He grew up in the American Christian cult Children of God, and despite leaving as a teenager, he was always restricted to old films and movies, and music created exclusively within its member circle. It makes the fact that his band, Girls, have pulled off such a brilliant debut album even better.
The album is psychedelic shoegaze pop 40-50 years out of time. It's Buddy Holly and Beach Boys influenced surf music, with bubblegum pop melodies coated in loud reverbial, lo-fi strumming. Despite the sunny repertoire of surfing licks and San Francisco beach feel about all of the music, there are some se rious themes underneath. Owens has always said that his time in the cult had serious influence on the music he made. As much as he felt free, and as much that the first album was a 'freedom of expression' he includes darkened personal references throughout. The first track Lust For Life appears to be naively going along its way, and that is exactly how its meant. The world around Owens at beginning of his teenage year passed him by in exactly the same way. The opening few lines:
'Oh I wish I had a boyfriend/
I wish I had a loving man in my life/
I wish I had a father/
Maybe then I would have turned out right/
Now i'm just crazy/I'm totally mad
Just crazy/I'm fucked in the head'
This album is a lot more real than it initially shows, and I'm pretty sure this is what was intended. The track Hellhole Ratrace is easily one of the songs of the year, if a little predictable. It's a monologue of troubles set underneath an uphill slope of emotion, a song on a downer that manages to rise into a grand finish. 'I don't wanna cry my whole life through/I wanna do some laughing too/ so come on and laugh with me' is the loud, defiant and shoegaze-drenched conclusion that Owens comes to. To pick out one more track, 'Summertime' is the final of the three album highlights. Until the bass guitar enters it sounds pretty close to Neutral Milk Hotel, but takes a distinctly San Franciscan turn after it joins the vocals and lead line. Its not much of a bright August song at all but nonetheless is totally and utterly spectacular. Girls strongest point throughout all of their music is their ability to construct such a huge sound in the main part of their songs. If The Twilight Sad were a San Franciscan 60s rock band rather than a scottish post-folk band, this would be exactly what they sounded like.
Lyrically, this is an album of emotion rather than of much relative context. Owens lets out so much personal feeling that little is left of many actual events taking place. You don't really know what context this album is in until you know the background of its creator. It is an album where you fill in the gaps yourself, and maybe that's why they didn't really give the album a name. Track titles 'Headache', 'Summertime' and 'Morning Light' leave you more with feelings, moods and seasons relative to the listener than a distinct storyline to follow. As I have said throughout, Album is a masterpiece of personality, and reveals more of itself to you with every listen. I don't tend to give ratings, but Album gets at least a 9 from me.