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From religious cult to
woozy lo-fi pop

Girls - Album
(True Panther Sounds)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 13, 2009

Review by Tony Bonyata

It never hurts when a new band has a compelling back-story. Of course to really stand out from the throngs of other new acts, your music better be every bit as good.

Such is the case with the San Fran-based indie-rock band Girls, whose front man Christopher Owens was raised in the Children of God movement, a religious cult which grew from the late '60s hippie movement and was scandalized by their alleged involvement in religious prostitution, child sexual abuse and child abductions. Banned from listening to any form of pop music growing up, the young Owens managed to soak up rock music through films, which they were allowed to watch during their weekly adult monitored movie nights.

Whatever oppression he may have suffered through his youth, however, doesn't show up - at least musically - on his band's debut, simply titled Album, as it's chockfull of rock and pop influences throughout the last four decades. Owens, along with co-conspirator Chet "JR" White, deliver a tasty baker's dozen of fuzzed-up, lo-fi, melodic pop rock that's as artful as it is instantly accessible. While "Big Bad Mean Mother..." conjures up the sunny pop of mid-'60s Beach Boys, it's also rife with skuzzy, oil-stained punk rock - as if Brian Wilson was fronting The Cramps. On the equally positive sounding pop opener "Lust For Life" Owens' shares some of his inner turmoil when he cries, "I wish I had a father, maybe then I would've turned out right. But now I'm just crazy, I'm totally mad," before a ray of hope prevails as he continues, "and maybe if I really try with all of my heart, then I could make a brand new start in love with you."

The album is also brimming with great melodies clad in a mechanics' soiled jumpsuit ("Morning Light" and "Summertime") and shoe-gazing pop dirges ("Lauren Marie," "Curls" and the dreamy "Headache"). The true highlight, however, is the introspective number "Hellhole Ratrace" where Owens does his best Jarvis Cocker-croon as he delivers the bittersweet chorus, "I don't want to cry my whole life through, I want to do some laughing too. And I don't want to die without shaking up a thing or two, Yeah, I want to do some dancing too. So come on, come on, come on, come on, dance with me." While this hauntingly beautiful track may not beckon you to the dance floor, you'll be hard pressed not to want to get more intimate with this attractive wallflower of a band.

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