Sunday, October 18, 2009

Girls Vs Girls

Or best new music vs best music of all time.

Though I've been hearing about San Francisco's Girls for a while now, until recently I never made an effort to listen to the band. Some of this is due to the public drubbing the band took on a thread on the Terminal Boredom message board (an invaluable source for music info and sub-Comedy Central Roast juvenile mockery). More of a factor is that band shares a name with the excellent defunct Boston new wave/post punk band, The Girls, and I felt some kind of weird and perhaps misguided allegiance.

Boston's Girls only released one single during their lifetime, the phenomenal "Jeffery, I Hear You." It was released on Pere Ubu's Hearthan label and it's easy to hear why Ubu felt a kinship. The Girls similarly mixed the electronic experiments of Eno's Roxy Music and the motorik of Krautrock with a more straightforward primal rock thump, at times resembling a more severe version of Ubu's Ohio neighbors Devo. The A-side of the single was collected along with a bunch of the band's demo material on a posthumous release in the mid-80s entitled Reunion. (It wasn't.) This essential document has been out-of-print for years and never released on CD. Fortunately, the good folks at Mutant Sound have made the album available for free MP3 download if you want to experience the glory.

It's a tall order for these new Girls if they want to usurp the title for best band with that moniker. (There have been others as well.) I don't think I would give the band's debut full length, Album (we can only hope they're fans of Flipper and not mid-period Public Image Ltd.), the 9.1 out of 10 it received on Pitchfork. This partially because I round down but also because I don't think record merits quite such a high grade. Girls' band of progressive yet somehow guileless pop is mostly effective and impressive in its breadth, even if it does get a bit cutesy and/or indulgent on occasion. Still, I've probably listened to Album just about as much as any record released this year, which may indicate that it's still growing on me. In any case, it's an undoubtedly promising debut.

(Incidentally, Tom Breihan's Pitchfork review is a prime example of what's wrong with the current state of music criticism. After beginning the piece by detailing the the trials and tribulations of Girls frontman Christopher Owens, Breihan acknowledges that this bit of backstory has next to nothing to do with the band's music, writing "you don't need to know one word of that first paragraph to hear it as what it is." Is that so? Then why the hell did you bother telling us?)

2009 Girls:

1979 Girls (ironically culled from a two year old Matblog post):


dola said...

That's Spike TV, home of Manswers and the UFC, loving the sound of Elvis Costello's kid yearning for more while hanging out with models and making jean ads on 8mm in San Francisco. Yeeeah...

PB said...

Dola, I more or less agree with everything you wrote above. Sexy girls shot on grainy film does kind of seem like trying to have it both ways: faux(?)-amateurism vs. the universally beloved commodity of a nice pair of tits. And yet I still like the record. Good music makes me grant anyone the benefit of the doubt.

At least it's not "big-pimpin'-by-way-of-Reykjavík." My apologies for not commenting at the time but you got that one right on the nose.