Girls – “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is the difficult second album from San Francisco’s Girls after their suitably lauded debut Album in 2009. And if anything, their influences are worn even more proudly here than they were first time around. The opening track, Honey Bunny, marries early Undertones with Paul Simon circa ’73, and the first four tracks on the album once again confirm Girls as the next in line to a tradition of heartfelt, sophisticated indie pop that traces its lineage to Big Star and The Replacements via Teenage Fanclub.

But as the third track, Die, progresses the more expansive soundscapes of Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd begin to emanate. And by the time we get to 5 and 6, My Ma and Vomit, the sound and feel of late Beatles has been blended with The Dark Side of The Moon and fed into Spiritualized to produce a sonic spectrum that spreads out in all directions at once.

What saves the whole thing from specious opulence though is the emotional depth and guileless, Lennonesque honesty that Christopher Owens provides. More than merely the lyricist and lead singer, Owens is the band’s creative dynamo, and it’s his delivery as much as it is his song writing that raises their music and sends it soaring into the heavens. You don’t need to know the details of his backstory to feel his pain, but few will be surprised after hearing this music to discover that his mother brought him up in the Children Of God cult, and that although both he and she escaped and survived, the price they paid was the death of his brother and her second son.

Had Girls been making music ten years ago, theirs would certainly have been the sound that Jonathon Caouette would have turned to for his similarly heartbreaking film Tarnation, from 2003. Both Owens and Caouette use emotional outpourings as a balm for the psychic wounds their delicate, androgynous, fragile torsos have been scarred with. In both cases, the results are devastating, at once hopelessly damaged yet improbably triumphant.

The more you listen to Father, Son, Holy Ghost the more comfortably it rests as a monumental edifice. The boys from Pravda gave it a suitably august 9.3 That feels about right. Give or take a percentage point or two.



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