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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