Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Rating: 4.3/5

Label: True Panther/Matador

Girls’ sophomore effort Father, Son, Holy Ghost is still concerned with the shared experiences of the wistful and forlorn, yet without the simplicity and immediacy of their debut Album. The songs here are more diverse, dense and challenging, the statements about heartache and dejection all the more beautiful and resonant.

The sounds on Father, Son, Holy, Ghost are incredible varied, from the shimmying surf guitars of “Honey Bunny” to the aggressive riffs of “Die,” to the ’60s soul and gospel tones of “Love Like a River.” Owens’ vocal delivery ranges from a near whisper to gaspy belting, but is always emotive. The refrain on “Honey Bunny” of “They don’t like my bony body/ They don’t like my dirty hair” would sound like standard pouty fair if Owens’ voice didn’t convey so much pain.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost contains several six to eight minute long folk-gospel opuses that are certainly no easy listening, but are undoubtedly the record’s most stunning tracks. “Vomit” has a quiet beginning of fragile yet foreboding strumming as Wallace softly sings, “Nights I spend alone/ I spend ’em running round looking for you, baby.” The refrain gives way three times: first to a despair-filled organ, then to a distorted guitar solo, then finally to gospel singers and wavering guitars which back the repeated plea “Come into my heart.” The track “Forgiveness” is similar in both its scale and atypical structure. The song sounds like someone giving themselves a pep-talk from rock bottom, as Owens sings, “If you don’t have a little hope… if you don’t have a little love in your soul/ Nothing’s gonna get any better.” The track spends almost five and a half minutes at barely above a whisper before exploding into a stadium guitar riff that evokes the enormous effort required to pick oneself up from the depths of desperation.

The themes in the lyrics of Father, Son, Holy Ghost wander, yet are shot through with reflections from the lonesome heart. “Alex” addresses selfishness that often accompanies single-minded young love with lines such as, “Alex has a band/ So who cares about war?” On “Saying I Love You,” Owens asks, “How can I say I love you/ Now that you’ve said I love you?” “Jamie Marie” expresses the sense of exasperation with clichéd advice about matters of love as Owens gasps, “They say it’s better to have loved and lose it than never to know it… easy come, easy go… whatever.”

One lyric in particular is revealing of Girls’ mission on Father, Son, Holy Ghost: on “Just a Song” over finger-picked acoustic, Christopher Owens croons, “Keep me up/ Keep me down/ Keep my feet on the ground/ Love: it’s just a song.” In singing about commonplace feelings associated with broken hearts and dejection over such a wide spread of sonic niches, Girls aim to show just how universal these feelings are. On Father, Son, Holy Ghost, the band prove themselves able to beautifully capture the fucked-up and fatalistic feelings of young love, no matter the thrust of the music.

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