Girls - "Vomit" (mp3)
Christopher Owens’ (who looks like a young Macaulay Culkin dressed in grunge-era garb) disturbed past has had a profound impact on his songwriting. 2009’s Album gave him the kind of creative license he relished while backing Ariel Pink back in his Holy Shit days. It also allowed him to unload all the emotional baggage that he’s been accruing throughout his bizarre nomadic upbringing in the notorious Children of God cult (now Family International). As hard as they tried to pound their left-leaning Christian revivalism into him, it only made him more determined to find his true voice and damn if it’s not the most soul-crushing tender timbre you’ve ever heard.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost is their third album (as clearly stated at the bottom of the cryptic album cover that Owens designed) but certainly their first as a traditional five-piece. Dan Eisenberg’s soaring organ sizzles on nearly every song along with the sonic weight a tertiary axe, especially one as heavy as John Anderson’s, brings to the fore. His collaborative partner since the beginning (Chet “JR” White) and new drummer Darren Weiss aren’t too shabby a rhythm section either. All parts move seamlessly, minimal assembly required.
“Honey Bunny” is just the kind of sunny pop melody Brian Wilson would slowly sip on cruising down the 101. Things take a turn for the Stephen Malkmus when we reach the blase, I’m happy-in-a-terribly-depressing-way diddy “Alex”, who is undoubtedly one of the “girls” that inspire their love-is-life themes. Both are breezy and beautiful, sardonic and jaded, all while simultaneously hooking you with familiar riffs you’ve heard your entire life but could never quite put a finger on.
Predictably the album gets a lot heavier once we progress to out-and-out rockers like “Die”, which is basically an instrumental featuring brash shouts of “We’re all gonna die/We’re all gonna die/We’re all gonna die!”. “Myma” provides a much-needed cool down after the previous sugar rushes. Sure, it’s not that hard to play, but the timing of the two-chord bass intonations and slow, steady electric guitar whines never lead you down a path you don’t trust — pure rock with more questions than answers.
Hopefully some of you have had the chance to see the epic video for “Vomit” which features an eerie blood red pony car. The song is infinitely timeless, a ‘70s heartbreaker reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” (complete with spooky female harmonies) and a sweeping power pop ballad that you hope never ends (fortunately it lasts for almost seven minutes). Hollow finger picking flamenco and three noticeable pauses prepare us for “Just a Song” which is more like a commentary on love lost and redemption than “just a song”.
“Magic” and “Jamie Marie” round out an album that is built around injecting universal melodies with their unique cocktail of insouciant lyrics, playful time schemes and the innate ability to warm all of our broken hearts right before they shatter them again. Make sure to give their bonus track “Love Life” a worthwhile listen as well.