Critical Voices: Girls, Broken Dreams Club

November 18, 2010

Next Monday, indie band Girls will release Broken Dreams Club, their first offering since 2009’s  creatively titled Album. The EP’s overarching theme is singer Christopher Owen’s unconventional childhood in the Children of God cult—a group that, according to Owens in FAQ magazine, tried “to raise a generation of kids that were not spoiled at all by the world.”

Thankfully, his attempts to reconcile his unconventional childhood and present situation come in the form of beautifully constructed songs like “Thee O So Protective One.” The simple, arpeggio-filled number is reminiscent of the Temptations’ “Earth Angel,” but distinguishes itself from other Doo-Wop imitations by combining excellent technique with Owens’ deeply personal lyrics.

Much of the album is dedicated to Owens’ transition from childhood in a secluded and sheltered sub-culture to jaded but independent adulthood. On “Broken Dreams Club,” Owens plaintively sings “But I just don’t understand/How the world keeps going nowhere … Can’t get my head around these wars/All the senselessness.” The lyrics on most tracks give a subtle but potent glimpse into Owens’ emotional reckoning, and together tell a story about family, confusion, separation, and disappointment.

The lyrics aren’t the only album’s only strong point either. The skill of all of Girls’ musicians is obvious in the album’s tight, clean sound. As Owens claims in a letter that accompanies the album’s release, “all great art is inspiration and then just a lot of hard work.”

Owens’s work especially paid off on “Substance,” where chorus- and reverb-drenched rhythm combine with smooth-as-glass leads and slow-building progressions to produce a sound unlike any other on the EP.

The retro sounds, intelligent lyrics, and emotional narrative combine to make a great album with a unifying theme that resonates even with those of us who weren’t raised in cults.

Voice’s Choices: “Thee O So Protective One,” “Heartbreaker”

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