Album was allegedly created when San Francisco’s Girls were on drugs, but it sounds like the only substances altering these dudes’ consciousnesses were sunshine and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s also a bit hard to put much weight in the drug angle, since these dudes are from San Francisco, a place with weather so nice people in heaven are jealous. It’s not like Girls cut an album on meth in North Dakota because there wasn’t shit else to do.
Girls were formed by Christopher Owens, who happens to be a guy with a hell of a backstory. He was once a member of the Children of God cult (the one that allegedly encouraged sexual relationships between the adults and children in the cult) before running away at 16 to live on the streets. After a few years bustling around, he started Girls with producer Chet White.
Pegging Girls as a drug-fueled, California band with a singer with a bloggable life story is probably missing the point, though. Girls are, at their most basic, a solid band of rock ‘n’ roll reappropriators. They pull from Buddy Holly-esque country rock (“Darling”), British new-wave (at least in spirit, “Headache”), AM pop (“Laura”), bristling lo-fi noise punk (“Big Bad Mean Motherfucker” and “Morning Light”), effervescent pop-rock (“Lust for Life”) and girl-group ballads (“Ghostmouth,” perhaps the only song to directly speak on Owens’ cult background, but probably not). The only things that carry the album throughout the changes are the overwhelming optimistic, yet heartbroken vibe and Girls’ omnivorous attitude toward rock history.
Yet throughout most of the album, Girls do little to differentiate themselves from a bevy of similar bands whose only weakness is a lyricist that is less entertaining than Owens (which, I suppose, gets down to the difference between bar bands and famous bands). It’s on “Hellhole Ratrace” that Girls make their pitch for semi-stardom; it is by leagues their best track, and one that hardly feels at place smack dab in the middle of Album. The track starts slow, but is brought to a simmer by ever-escalating guitar, and Owens’ increasingly fragile worries about not wanting to die to soon, before everything explodes in walls of blissed-out feedback. It’s a pristine highlight, towering over everything around it.
If nothing else, Album could be a precursor to about five different albums. On album two will Girls do all punk, all lo-fi, all sunny AM affectations or all seven-minute long feedback meditations? Listening to Album, you’ll never know.