Occasional greatness from Girls

Girls - Album
In the lead up to Girls‘ debut, Album, the San Francisco group released two singles: the rollicking non-Iggy cover “Lust for Life” and the woozy epic “Hellhole Ratrace.” Both songs were absolutely gorgeous, matching blissful pop oblivion with poignant lyrics and singer Christopher Owens’ wounded, gulping vocals. With such a precedent, it was almost inevitable that the full-length will disappoint.

mp3: “Hellhole Ratrace”

To be sure, the two already-released singles are the best two tracks on the album. Elsewhere, Girls’ retro rock style has a tendency to stray a little too close to pastiche. “Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker” is a rockabilly send-up with a “Johnny B. Goode”-style guitar break and a refrain that contains the lyric “I’m gonna rock like no one ever told me to stop.” “Headache” and “Lauren Marie” are both vaguely tropical crooners, and they are a little too drippy to be taken seriously.

Despite its flaws, Album still has several worthy tracks that make it an enjoyable, if inconsistent, listen. “Laura” is a bouncy rocker, and its impassioned plea of “Reach out and touch me, I’m right here / And I don’t wanna fight anymore” captures an adolescent romanticism that Rivers Cuomo has spent the past decade trying to recreate. Halfway into the pattering “Summertime,” a huge whooshing guitar enters and nearly engulfs the track—it’s barely even recognizable as a guitar, sounding almost like crashing cymbals or just a synthesizer, and it makes for a moment of brilliant shoegaze dreaminess. “Morning Light” is another shoegaze throwback that’s a little more traditional in its approach—it just cranks the distortion up all the way—but is just as effective.

As the shoegaze-influenced tracks show, Girls have the talent to take on a variety on styles—it’s only when they descend into parody that they trip up. Album may not be stunning from front to back, but its highlights show that a masterpiece may be in the group’s future.

Album is out now via True Panther.
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One Comment

  1. Mike
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I agree – Hellhole Ratrace and Lust for Life are far and away the best tracks on Album (and Laura is pretty great too.) The overall sound/production is great, but a lot of the songs don’t rise above their simple, nostalgic structures into something totally unique or memorable.

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