Is This It?
The great patron saints of the third-millennial buzz-band once asked 'Is This It?' That's the sentiment that resounds throughout Father, Son, Holy Ghost, the second LP for San Francisco's Girls. Of course, this symbolic question applies in two ways.
The record is a total bummer, in which the good-timery of their breakout debut, Album, has been replaced with the sense that being in a buzz-band can be kind of a bad trip; songwriter Christopher Owens and his cohorts suddenly questioning what they're doing. Yet, for listeners who've been force-fed the narrative of Girls' greatness, well too may they wonder 'Is This It?' This is the sound of one of 2011's supposed defining albums?
In short: no, it's not. Album was, itself, overrated, but here Girls struggle to even live up to their predecessor. This is the sound of a band trying to live up to their stature as big, important, meaningful act, and failing. With every flounce of classical guitar or slow swell to proscribed grandeur, Girls come across as a band self-consciously attempting to prove themselves as something more than flash-in-the-pan hype band; every over-considered, committee-thought instant dying meekly, weak, lifeless, and airless.
More Anything? More Everything!
Father, Son, Holy Ghost starts innocuously enough. There's two-and-a-half minutes of "Honey Bunny," all surf-rock twang and ersatz retro tropes; a faux-scrappy single that, if melodically enjoyable, pales in pure-pop-song comparison to, say, anything found on Dominant Legs' Invitation, an album made by close Girls associates Ryan Lynch and Hannah Hunt.
"Honey Bunny" (which pales in comparison, to, to the great Vincent Gallo song of the same name) hopes, seemingly, to tap into the same pain-mixed-with-scrappy-pop vibe that made their "Lust for Life" one of the definitive singles of 2009. But if that eternal jam boasted of joie de vivre from the top on down, this follow-up LP is far more about depression; both for songwriters and listeners.
As Christopher Owens sings sadsack things, arrangements are stacked on en masse. There's guitar solos, pedal steel, optigan, mellotron, church organ, gospel choirs, handclaps. They amount to not some glorious wall-of-sound, more sonic baggage; extraneous grandeur hoping to give heft to material lacking in it.
The entire second-half of Father, Son, Holy Ghost is built on tracks like that: "Vomit," "Just a Song," "Forgiveness." Each song is marginal at best, just a couple of generic sentiments set at a mopey plod; but they go on forever, each well over six minutes. Added up, they amount to an album that sounds for all the world like a band bunkered down in the studio not out of inspiration, but out of audience expectation, and contractual obligation.
Record Label: True Panther Sounds/Matador
Release Date: September 13, 2011