Girls | Album
Most Likely To: complicate the simple, simplify the complicated, and please the listener.
According to psychologists, people who possess a mix of masculine and feminine traits have higher self-esteem and fewer neuroses than their peers who identify more with Dolly Parton or Chuck Norris. While the two boys who comprise the San Francisco duo Girls, Christopher Owens and Chet JR White, don’t seem any less neurotic or unhappy than the rest of us, they do have a knack for crafting songs with an undeniable masculine energy that still sounds vulnerable. Owens, who looks more like a garage rocker than a fey folkie, sings plaintively and unapologetically about his feelings. He creates subtle tension within his music, and comes across much more like Roy Orbison crooning “Crying” than Boy George singing, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”
Album kicks off with “Lust for Life,” which was Girls’ 2008 debut 7”, and features the irresistible lyrics, “I wish I had a suntan / I wish a I had a pizza, a bottle of wine / I wish I had a beach house / And we could make a big fire every night / Instead I’m just crazy / and totally mad.” While “Lust for Life” isn’t a cover of the Iggy Pop tune, it does give Owens a chance to show off just how much he can sound like Elvis Costello. Girls disarm the listener by pairing the wistful optimism of a song like “Lust for Life” with the realization of how wrong it has all gone during the slow burn of “Hellhole Ratrace.”
“Big Bad Mean Motherfucker” blends California surf rock, Jesus and Mary Chain noise, and a sense of humor, as if Girls can’t decide whether to kill surf city or just surf. “Headache” is well named, as the vocals warble a little too much, maybe inducing a wince or too. Yet Owens and White also know when to simplify their music, as on “Darling,” which is Album’s coda.
By calling their debut Album, Owens and White imply that the songs could sound like anything, and Album is nothing if not long on variety. By the last song, the duo has filled their aural canvas with a wide range of material. Though most of the individual pieces are familiar, Girls still rearrange those elements into songs that sound (almost) new.
Listen to “Hellhole Ratrace” from Girls: