BEST OF 2011: 23. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

After a 2009 debut which set the polls alight and rained hype down upon them from the giddy heights of critical acclaim, expectations for this second full-length release were high. Generally, that is. I’d picked up the debut on a bitterly cold December afternoon just prior to Christmas in the year of its release when mopping up end of year luminaries I’d hitherto missed. It was alright, and has grown on me a little over time but it wasn’t a cherished addition to the collection. And so, ‘Father Son, Holy Ghost’ crept up on me a bit. This, however, is very much a cherished addition to the collection and one which fills a neat, Teenage Fanclub-sized hole in the year.

Ghost

Ok, that’s a convenient comparison which doesn’t apply to every track here, but from the riff heavy, easy to pick up chorus of ‘Honey Bunny’ through the delicate cymbal brushing of breezy jangle-athon ‘Alex’ and on to ‘Saying I Love You’, it’s hard not to think of ‘Bandwagonesque’ and ‘Grand Prix’. The last of those three tracks is a particular delight, with its keening, understated vocal bypassing all other influences and heading straight for the box marked ‘Big Star’. Tempting as it must be to dismiss this as the mere wiffle-waffle of a recovering hyperbolist, I can’t recommend this record enough for fans of the two bands so far mentioned. It’s not close enough to be annoying pastiche nor flimsy enough to simply be the work of desperate copyists – it deserves to be alongside them.

The similarities aren’t constant, however. I’m not sure ‘Vomit’ is a title that Chilton’s group would have ever gone for, even if the song – a glorious, sprawling beast: part anxious, heavy guitar, part emotive organ and swooning back vocals – isn’t a massive departure. Quite why they insisted upon giving it this name though – admittedly with some reasoning, based on the aphorism “as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” – it’s like ‘I’m In Love With A Girl’ having been released as ‘Tits’.

As with so many jangly indie albums, the pace isn’t massively varied and it certainly benefits from multiple listens, allowing the gorgeous melodies and neat little guitar parts to rise to the top. ‘Magic’ is a great example of one of those which floats past on the first few listens, sounding already curiously familiar, only to then lurch out and become a firm favourite a few months down the line. The soulful leanings of the aforementioned ‘Vomit’ and penultimate track ‘Love Like A River’ are played straight and are all the more beautiful for it, even if the occasional gospel-styled backing vocal takes a little getting used to in this context.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ is an album which rarely gets above mid-paced and often lollops along, nodding its head knowingly. It’s got plenty of time to wait for you to catch up, whether it happens on your first or fifteenth listen. I wouldn’t leave it too long though, eh?

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