For those who detest preciousness in their up-and-coming indie bands, Girls will require a Herculean amount of patience, for several legitimate reasons. For starters, this San Francisco all-male duo named themselves "Girls" and dubbed their debut Album, going two-for-two in the too-cute-by-half category. Then there's the music itself, which adheres to the hipster-approved formula of marrying skeletal bedroom arrangements to weak, Beach Boys-inspired sunny melodies. If all this weren't enough, Girls frontman Christopher Owens grew up in a religious cult, the Children of God, which he ran away from as a teenager, thus creating for himself the sort of terrifically melodramatic back-story beloved by scenesters who too often confuse a colorful or troubled childhood with proof of genius.
So, yes, there's plenty to carp about when it comes to Girls, and yet the really shocking thing is that Album gets better and better the more you ignore the band's baggage and instead focus on songs. Owens and bandmate Chet "JR" White populate Album with wanderers and outcasts, but listen hard to the lo-fi pop of "Lust for Life" (not the Iggy tune) and the dreamy primitivism of "Ghost Mouth," and you'll notice that Girls never assume that the people they sing about are somehow more interesting or "real" than the rest of us. And while Owens won't win any awards for his twangy voice, there's genuine vulnerability in there. "I don't want to cry my whole life through/I want to do some laughing too" goes the chorus of the quietly effecting "Hellhole Ratface," and right there, Album asserts itself as an album where, unlike so many other overhyped bands, Girls demonstrate a desire to learn from suffering rather than just wallowing in it.
Girls play Saturday, April 10, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Dum Dum Girls and Leisure.
Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.