Brought up within the polyamorous Children of God cult, Christopher Owens, lead singer of Girls, travelled with his mother and two sisters through Puerto Rico, Asia and Europe. There, he played guitar on the streets until he had saved up enough money to buy a plane ticket to America, and broke free of the cult, living on the streets of San Francisco for several years. His life story reads like the premise of a William S. Burroughs novel, which makes it disappointing that his band’s debut album sounds almost as unimaginative as its title. It’s called Album by the way.
If art is supposed to imitate life, it’s a shame that all Album really seems to amount to is a pleasant, passable lo-fi record with the current staple -60s pop and surf rock influences and vacuous lyrics. The band has self-assuredly described the album as ‘honest, loose, ethereal, obnoxious and perfect’. Think big, certainly, but it may be a bit of a stretch to attribute such a description to a song that has the lyrics ‘Oh I wish I had a suntan/I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine’
That being said, ‘Lust For Life’ is innocuous and rather enjoyable. A dose of sun and surf-soaked jangle pop, the frothy fusion of harmonicas, handclaps and Owens’ peculiar, boyish drawl has a surprisingly warming effect. Unfortunately, by the second track, the rather whiney vocals have already grown tiresome. ‘Laura’ with its lamenting solo lines and echoed -60s girl group wailing harmonies, is teenage heartbreak balladry at its plainest as Owen bleats ‘you’ve been a bitch/I’ve been an ass’. It would seem that Album is the sonic chronicles of angsty adolescent melodramas and loves lost.
It must be clarified that an album which aspires to sound like a mash-up of The Crystals and The Cramps can never be a bad thing. Neither is song which sounds like Iggy Pop singing ‘Greased Lightning’ (‘Big Bag’). What is so wearisome about the album is that it’s no less systematic than the souped up 1948 Ford. A serious case of musical mitosis is narrowly avoided with songs that take the band’s aforementioned influences and mingle them with other elements, so they reinvent rather than rehash.
‘God Damned’, harbours maracas and bongo drums which add a tropical tang to the bubbly acoustic arrangement, whilst ‘Curls’ is a simple, compelling song that enmeshes mellow bluegrass guitars with psychedelic soul. One of the best tracks on the album is ‘Summertime’, a charming perky stoner rock (slightly oxymoronic, granted) song that’s enveloped in delightful distortion. It could be said then, that Girls’ Album is much like the film Grease 2; a run-of-the-mill repeat of a classic, enjoyable enough but nothing overly exhilarating.