Features / Review

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

I was always taught to make prayer part of my everyday life.  But lacking discipline in this practice makes it easy to fall into the category of those who view prayer as sort of a life boat, a remaining shred of hope at moment of desperation.  It’s clear that on Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls fall into the category of those who call on the Holy Trinity at times of debilitating loneliness,  which coincidentally make up the most powerful moments on this record .  It’s obvious at this point that the darkest moments often shed the most light, and that nothing great ever comes without any emotional scarring.  Thus whatever moments of darkness Owens and co. have had to deal with must have been frighteningly bleak, because Father, Son, Holy Ghost is one hell of a bright light.

It’s important to acknowledge first and foremost, that sonically FSH is absolutely breathtaking.  With the risk of sounding like a man much much older than myself, they really don’t make albums that sound like this anymore.  In an age of MP3s and radio rips the art of capturing a sound that can express emotion stronger than the lyrics it accompanies, seems to be lost.  And after listening to this album, it’s quite a travesty that it’s a forgotten art.  Sure, Girls expanded their palate of instruments (as they did on the Broken Dreams Club EP) but never once is an instrument used “because it’s there”.  The album is raw when it needs to be (“Just A Song”, “Jamie Marie”), is back to basics at times (“Saying I Love You”, “Magic”), and at it’s finest moments explodes with depth, layers, and pure emotion (“Vomit, “Love Like A River”).  The sheer range of guitar tones and textures, is as well something to be marveled. To somehow describe the deep menu of guitar sounds, would be like sampling fruits in the Garden of Eden; each with it’s own succulent look, texture, and flavor.  At extremes you have the delicate, and airy sounding nylon-string guitar on “Just A Song” contrasted against the screeching “Die”, where an attacking slide mimics the sound of skinning a cat.  The depth and contrast of sound throughout FSH is an absolute necessity as a partner to such emotionally charged lyricism.

In the same way that Girls have a way of making the familiar seem rediscovered, they too have a knack for making the simplest line seem completely loaded.  For many reasons, I give that credit to Owens who has an impeccable way of channeling a complete feeling through the nuances of his vocal delivery.  When the vocals enter on “Die” half way through the song, Owens races through his lines like a man on fire, barely able to finish the last lyrics of “We’re all gonna die, all gonna die, all gonna die”.  On “Love Like A River” Owens voice is completely malleable and melts in-between each line of instrumentation like the wandering woman he describes.  Perhaps the best example of Girls putting weight behind simplicity, and perhaps the bands strongest song to date, is the epic soul crusher, “Vomit”.  Following a breakdown turned to insanity, Owens laments his nights in search of a lost love until he finally realizes –

“‘There’s something that I get for myself
And there’s something that you give to me
Well, I got one without the other
Well, it’s not enough to be – I need your love”

When read off the page, the lines come across as an over-dramatized playground rhyme.  However when sung by Owens, backed by an exploding guitar tone, soaring organ, and heartbreaking gospel singers (a la Pink Floyd), the words seem to brutally crush what was ever left of your broken heart.  “Vomit” is no doubt the center piece of the brilliant album, combining stunning production with insightful albeit heavy emotion, demonstrating the band’s tremendous leap of maturation.

Throughout each release by Girls, one string runs constant- an almost infallible ability to couple strong song writing and colorful melodies that result in a refreshing take on something that seems all too familiar.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost is not an easy album to swallow,  like Album or even Broken Dreams Club EP might have been, but one with rewards that far exceed the simple enjoyment factor of past releases.  As a career thus far, Girls have developed much like bands from past era’s we all wish we were a part of- increasingly demonstrating leaps in maturity without losing site of what made them great.

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