Girls have always been fittingly named. Album, their lively debut, made them its primary subject matter (‘Laura’, ‘Lauren Marie’, ‘Darling’), and this September’s follow-up, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, is no different. More overtly even than Album, the LP is almost exclusively made up of love songs of the most uncomplicated kind. Frontman Christopher Owen’s style is rooted in a time when songwriters like Buddy Holly churned out hundreds of tunes documenting, with only very minor variation, the consuming object of so much of our fascination: love.
Unlike, say, Stephen Merritt, Owen isn’t interested in taking any new angles on the ‘love song’; he’s perfectly content to revisit the experiences we all share, sentiments so universal that documenting them could never really be clichéd. The climax of ‘Vomit’, the insistently repeated “Come into my heart”, might be trite were it not for Owen’s genuine earnestness, in ‘Vomit’ and throughout the record. The lyrical content of Father, Son, Holy Ghost thus operates within well-tempered phrases, but never ones that sound tired on Owen’s lips.
The songs are all backed by an equally well-worn rock sound, far more stylistically cohesive than the scattershot approach of Album, and expertly produced by Doug Boehm and Girls’ own JR White. The instrumentation is as classic and well-tested as the 1966 Ford Mustang so adoringly filmed in the ‘Vomit’ music video.
Girls know the game they’re playing, of course. ‘Jamie Marie’, perhaps the most heartfelt track of the bunch, sees Owen pining for a lost lover. At first, he wallows in familiar clichés: “I miss the way life was when you were my girl”; as the song progresses, however, Owen comes to realize the emptiness of borrowed words: “I know they say it’s better to have love and to lose it than to never ever know it, easy come and easy go, whatever…” And so he stops singing, and ‘Jamie Marie’ continues with the melancholic riffs of the conversing guitar and organ, perhaps better vehicles for emotion than even the best clichés.