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Girls - "Album" Review

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REVIEW: "Album" by Girls____________________________________________RSS
By Joey Tayler

Look, it's October, and we're just launching, so no, we don't have a back catalog of reviews covering every album ever made. So when we're not writing up the latest bands and their new releases, the Rocksposure crew will start filling in those blanks with reviews of the records that mattered to us in the past 300 odd days.

Starting with ...

"Album" by Girls

That's what it's called -- "Album." Not self-titled. "Album." Christopher Owens and Chet "JR" White called their band Girls and their debut album "Album." Oh it's just a title, you say, it doesn't mean anything. Except you can't listen to songs this brokenhearted, this wracked by bitterness and the terrible ache of wanting and tell me that that "Album" is just a tossed-off joke to compliment Owens' Elvis Costello sneer, or that Girls is just proto-pop pose. Owens cares. A lot. Maybe this is literally his "girls album," song after song of Owens sounding like he's clawing at the empty side of his bed, fighting back tears, puffing out his "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" chest to scare the hurt away and lure in a replacement. "Reach out/touch me, I'm right here/And I don't wanna fight anymore" he pleads on "Laura," with Cars guitars bouncing him along, keeping his head above the tide. Then night falls on the Orbisonian "Ghost Mouth" and the loneliness sinks in: "I've got nothing to do/And nobody to see/Nowhere to go/And nobody to be." Throughout "Album," the twang of the guitars, faint tambourine jangles, and far-off rumble of drums further isolate Owens, like he's wandering a beach hours after the clambake ended looking for someone, anyone, to blow on the embers and get this party, this life started again. "And I don't wanna die/Without shaking up a leg or two/Yeah I wanna do some dancing too/So come on come on come on come on and dance with me," he croons on "Hellhole Retrace" in a Buddy Holly warble, and when no one answers the call he keeps right on singing the same SOS, over and over, until woozy synths recalling the "Blue Velvet" soundtrack swallow Owens in lonely oblivion.

Considering Girls' retro SoCal stylings, maybe "Album" nods to the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," i.e. THE ALBUM which defined the sound of indie rock this decade as much as Radiohead or any number of alt-country folkies. Girls' surf-punk sound is edgier, more lyrical, and more human than the raft of Brian Wilson imitators punching out blip-bloop symphonies on their Macbooks (which is why you're reading about Girls right now instead of Animal Collective). Girls know as well as Wilson did that the fabled "endless summer" is just that -- a fable, an Eden of boys and girls holding hands in the sand that's beautiful and fleeting and doomed for a fall. On "Summertime" we get a hint of both the loveliness, and of how things can go bad: Owens fantasizes about dressing up, growing his hair long, getting high, and soaking up the sun before he's swept away on a nostalgic wall of sound trip. When he comes to, he's still alone with his guitar, still craving one more hit, still alone on the beach.

By the end of "Album," no one has reached out and touched Owens, but he finds some solace pouring himself into this gorgeous record. "Morning Light," a head rush of shimmering guitars chasing runaway drums points Girls past the '60s, past all that pain and suffering, towards closer "Darling," an open love letter from Owens to the songs he's just shared with us, "the friend he needs," the art that has purged him. Owens' sensational life story -- growing up in a cult that refused his baby brother medical treatment and forced his mom into prostitution -- suggests this troubled soul might have a lot more purging to do (maybe his follow up will be "Album" by Cults). As long as he keeps opening up with music this wrenching and ultimately triumphant, we'll be there for him.

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