REVIEW: Girls - "Father, Son, Holy Ghost"


Girls - "Father, Son, Holy Ghost"
Label: True Panther Sounds
Release Date: September 7th, 2011

My biggest complaint with the debut Girls record, Album, was Christopher Owens’ strained, forced, and to put it bluntly, fictitious vocals.  Many disagreed with this observation at the time of Album’s release, but look no further than their sophomore release Father, Son, Holy Ghost as vindication.  On the album, Owens’ voice is restrained and refuses to bounce around to fit the melody in the awkward way it did on Album.  This change and the amount of musical influences checked on Father, Son, Holy Ghost brings up the question of identity and ultimately has me asking if Girls have any idea who they are as a band or what they want to add to the musical landscape.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost will confuse a lot of listeners and music critics into a positive reaction.  The album sounds crisp throughout and is simply an enjoyable spin.  In music, the familiar is comfortable, accessible, and demands less on the listener.  Mix that with Girls’ intelligent use of switching tempo/mood mid song to keep the listener of their toes and you have the perfect recipe for a widely celebrated record.  There is no argument that Owens borrows from his musical influences throughout the record, he has admitted it himself in several interviews.  There's nothing wrong with looking to musical favorites in order to craft an album; the problem exists when an artist doesn’t do enough to separate themselves from their influences or inject enough of their own unique vision into the final product.  There are very few moments that feel new or give me any insight into the personality of Girls. 

The biggest problem concerning Father, Son, Holy Ghost is the lack of cohesiveness between sound and theme.  The album jumps from Beach Boys, to Wolfmother (yeah, Wolfmother's "Woman" guitar riff to Girls' "Die"), to country, to alt rock, to 60’s/70’s folk without any indication of why these tracks appear on the same album other then a consistent vocal performance throughout.  Other then celebrating or paying homage to Girls’ own personal musical favorites, why were these tracks picked to form a complete record?  That’s the question I found myself asking throughout the entire album and never received the answer.

With all that said, if Girls’ only desire is to craft a nice sounding record around their influences then they succeeded with Father, Son, Holy Ghost.  I can't stress enough that the album is enjoyable and should be applauded for its production.  The problem I see in the future (and it’s already begun) is that this record will bring forth the hypocrisy of many music journalists.  Music critics are notorious for picking and choosing when it comes to artists filling their art with influences.  What can be shrugged off for a band they want to promote, can be a death sentence in a review for a band they want to bash. Popular online magazine Spin, uses one word: “Whatevs” (not even a real word) to avoid actually delving into analysis concerning Girls heavy use of their influences.   For me it’s simple, does the band distance themselves enough from their influences to make their sound unique?  Girls doesn't accomplish this on Father, Son, Holy Ghost and is the key complaint that should be highlighted. 

I do recommend giving this album at least one spin.  If you can simply enjoy a band cataloguing and performing their musical favorites, you will find a lot to like on this album.  After hearing Father, Son, Holy Ghost I’m convinced that Girls do have the technical skills to make a great album, they have one or several in them, they just need to take a few risks and show listeners who they truly are and what unique fingerprints they can put on music.  Maybe then, bands will make the same mistake Girls did on Father, Son, Holy Ghost and try to emulate their sound.  After all, that’s the ultimate artistic compliment and the downfall for many bands afraid to blaze their own trails.  


  1. Couldn't agree more. Find myself enjoying the record but nothing unique. At least they're open about it.

  2. I enjoy the record although I'm not a HUGE fan (Vomit grew on me, we'll see if the rest of the songs do the same). This reads as more than a little self-righteous, I admit, but that's what I come to expect from WLFY, so no worries there. I do think it's kind of interesting that you think Christopher Owens's vocals are insincere and one of the worst things about the band when I find them to be one of the best primarily because I find it to be so believable when he emotes, which saves some of their songs that would otherwise just be unbearable schmaltz.

  3. I feel like you misunderstand Owens' use of appropriation. The main charm that comes from his blatant and eclectic imitation is that they make his albums play like mixtapes. Also, I feel like Girls walks a fine line between obnoxious and meaningful borrowing. Unlike a band such as Yuck, Girls take these old sounds and disposes of their previous sensibilities. When I first listened to Album, I considered purchasing a copy for my mom because she loves surf rock and I thought she'd appreciate the fact that modern bands give a shit about that kind of music; however, I quickly realized she would hate Album because between Owens' nasally voice and drug-induced lyrics, she could not identify with these songs. Same goes for this album. There are a lot of important statements this band is making with their music that suggest a complicated relationship with its influences, and while I agree that we shouldn't write it off, I feel like we need to focus on what makes appropriation so successful on this album compared to its contemporaries.