Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
[True Panther Sounds, 2011]
Jeff Pearson, September 15, 2011
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath
With each release of Northern California outfit, Girls, the band has consistently displayed an uncanny ability to turn any listening environment into a sunny San Francisco summer day. Stifling southern humidity gives way to the ever-fabled dry heat, falling New England leaves dissipate into sunrays beating through redwood canopies, and rain-soaked northwestern streets run dry with only the rattle of trolleys on their tracks.
Girls’ latest record, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, is no different. From the moment “Honey Bunny” bursts through the silence, with its surf-friendly guitars and punchy rhythm, we’re right back on the Gold Coast. The opening track is indicitave of the overall balance throughout the record–Chet “JR” White’s rollicking bassline and Darren Weiss’ tumbling drums give way to a slow, heartbroken melancholy. The track also establishes the realization of how much the band has grown in the short time since their 2009 debut, Album. Where Album was effective in its seemingly careless recording approach and loose playing, Father, Son, Holy Ghost shimmers with gorgeous production and rich, full instrumentation.
Girls have brought a few new tricks along with them, as well. “Die” has a chugging heavy metal romp seamlessly melt into grandiose psychedelia that would fit right in on any Atom Heart Mother-era Pink Floyd bootleg. The Floyd comparisons can stretch across the record on multiple points; “Vomit” builds into a crescendo of singer and principle songwriter, Christopher Owens, crooning the line “Come into my heart” while backup vocalists Vearline Beard and Trisha Fredrick wail behind him–one can only be reminded of Floyd’s “Great Gig In The Sky”. However, while Roger Waters dwelled on universal crises, Owens prefers to take a lighter, more personal lyrical approach. The main focus of Girls’ music, and of course their namesake, is girls. From Album to Father, Son, Holy Ghost, practically each song is an ode to a different failed relationship. On “Honey Bunny”, Owens addresses his poor luck with the fairer sex, “I’ve been messing with so many girls who could give a damn about who I am–they don’t like my bony body, they don’t like my dirty hair, or the stuff that I say, or the stuff that I’m on.”
Heartbreak helped pen the record, like so many before it, so as music enthusiasts, and human beings in general, it invokes feelings of familiarity. It doesn’t hurt that the sounds match the level of nostalgia that resonate within the sentiments. This is music listeners have loved all along, classic pop ideals weaved together with modern production and attitude. The beauty is in the subtleties; whether it be when the guitar emerges to mimic Owens as he sadly sings “Alex has a boyfriend, oh well, I’m in hell” in “Alex”, or the way each plucked nylon string in “Just A Song” has an individual personality and voice, this is a record with purpose. As the final moments of “Jamie Marie” work their way through the speakers, Dan Eisenberg’s highly singable–nearly every line, instrumental or otherwise, is highly singable–organ outro eases the listener out of a Northern California park, watching some picturesque sunset, into whatever reality surrounds them, it’s hard to not flip the record and head back out west.