Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011)


Geez, I really don't know what to think at this point about this increasingly well-loved San Francisco band. Their previous release, the EP Broken Dreams Club, featured one of my favorite songs of the last several years, the astonishing, aching Roy Orbison / Television pastiche "The Oh So Protected One" and was generally a strong, well-crafted group of pop compositions.

With this even more celebrated new album I feel like I'm listening to leftovers from latter-day Rolling Stones albums. And by latter-day I don't mean It's Only Rock 'n' Roll and Goats Head Soup, which would be one thing; I mean Steel Wheels and Voodoo Lounge. The psychedelia in Girls' soupy blend of punky attitude and pseudo-classy Fleetwood Mac homages is that forced, that insincere, that tiresome. It sounds like the music that the guy who wrote The Playboy Adviser in the '80s probably listened to while he recommended billiard tables and mahogany wine racks to readers.

Few of the songs are really insufferable, but most of them spiral out of control at some point. A somewhat agreeable but uncomfortably Dire Straits-like pop confection like "Magic" can only go so far in redeeming the coked-up meandering of effectively atmospheric but fatally overlong "Vomit" and the sheer ugliness of wank like "Forgiveness." Even the solid AM equivalent to the band's best prior work has a really gross Tom Pettyness about it -- "Saying I Love You" is audaciously fun but starts to give you the feeling of spending too much time at the mall after the third or fourth listen.

Girls seem like a compelling band, but I can't abide by this album at all. It's sickeningly overblown and suffers from the same mysterious leaning on long-expired soft rock clichés as countless other wildly overpraised albums out this year. The difference that seems to be garnering so much enthusiasm sounds to me like nothing beyond the tossing in of some early '70s muddiness and angsty whining. If this is the best we can do for badass rock stars in 2011, we're in for a lot of dross in the coming years.

Broken Dreams Club EP (2010)

[Thanks to Amber Morris for the help with the wine rack joke.]

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