Girls are the best band that no-one’s ever heard of.
Their music sounds like the messy results of Buddy Holly, a gospel choir and Ariel Pink being thrown into a blender. It’s filled with a haphazard collection of clichés and references, plucked randomly from every corner of American pop culture. Combining this with stinging emotional clarity to their songs allowed them to collect a cult following – until the band dissolved in 2012, just as they began to gain festival bookings and enthusiastic press coverage, from the likes of Spin and Pitchfork.
Christopher Owens – one half of the duo – is a man with a couldn’t-make-it-up past. In short, he grew up a member of the Children of God cult, drifting around Europe and Asia, before escaping with his sister to America, where he suffered homelessness and drug-addiction. One way or another, he was found by oil tycoon and art-enthusiast Stanley Marsh 3, who took a shine to him, gave him a job and funded his music. Owens then met Chet “JR” White, and together formed the band Girls in 2007.
This surreal story, a fair-ground mirror version of the American Dream, lends itself well to forming an enticing creation myth – one that helped Girls win the interest of new fans, but was certainly not cynically exploited by the band. Instead, Owens’ experiences provide inspiration for their work, particularly their most emotionally open songs. However, these often tend to rely on the use of deliberate cliches, which on occasion makes their music feel regurgitated and stale.
Girls are a band that refuses coherence. They switch style and genre bizarrely. Some songs are sparky yet conventional pop, with hooks and catchy choruses; others are haunting laments which meander down their own lackadaisical paths. Even the reception of all three of their albums has ranged from wildly ecstatic to tepid and limp. For some bands, leaving an audience bewildered through erratic incoherence, is a major weak spot, yet their jumbled oeuvre is precisely what gives Girls their charm.
In conclusion, Girls’ strange and flawed music is worth listening and re-listening to, in order to discover a band with an intriguing and beguiling magic.