It’s difficult to describe the San Francisco garage outfit Girls in a few words, but here’s a stab at it: Imagine if you took a 60s girl group, mixed it with a classic rock band a la Pink Floyd, grunged it up a bit with elements of the 90s Seattle sound and then sprinkled that product with a bit of the Beach Boys. This combination is a vague approximation of what their sophomore album Father, Son, Holy Ghost sounds like. Twinged with surf rock and jam-packed with retro riffs and psychedelic sounds, Girls deliver an outstanding second album that pays homage to everyone from Captain Beefheart to Brian Wilson.
Raised in the infamous Children of God cult, lead singer Christopher Owens is no stranger to personal struggles, which he has channeled into crafting beautiful indie pop that’s packed with sounds influenced by everything from the Golden Oldies to the grunge movement. Father, Son, Holy Ghost is more mellow and a touch more confident than their previous effort, 2009’s Album. And though Owens still retains his signature whispery croon, this time there’s just a little less quaver and a sense of strength that can only be the result of a reconciliation with his turbulent past.
And unlike a lot of today’s insufferable and overly-intellectual indie artists, Owens isn’t known for complex, cryptic lyrics or confusing euphemisms, but for his simple, unpretentious pop lyrics filled with familiar phrases and imagery. From “you threw my heart away, you made me blue” on “Saying I Love You” to “nights I spend alone, I spend ‘em runnin’ ‘round lookin’ for you, baby” on “Vomit,” he uses familiar phrases and imagery to connect listeners to the very relatable notions of love, lust, heartbreak and, of course, sadness in its simplest form.
All these lyrics are sung over melodies reminiscent of almost every decade of iconic American music for the past 60 years. Featuring both organ riffs and blues funk, Father, Son, Holy Ghost is like a time capsule collection of the classics that would make both The Byrds and Buddy Holly proud. It’s deceptive though because underneath all of those carefree Californian vibes, Owens is also incredibly vulnerable and self-conscious, singing about how he can’t keep his girl from moving on in the doo-wop influenced “Love Like a River” or things like “they don’t like my boney body, they don’t like my dirty hair” on the beachy “Honey Bunny.”
So if you’re in need of something a little sunnier than the witchhouse and darkwave that’s been dominating the blogosphere lately, reminiscence with a little surf and a lot of soul from Girls and the band’s signature spin on the great tunes of yesteryear.
Final Grade: A