Girls, Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, London
Tuesday 27 October 2009
Like Love or A, Girls (who are actually comprised of two men) are one of those infuriatingly difficult bands to search for on the internet. Once you've sifted through some of the more risqué sites and perhaps made a couple of awkward wrong turns, you'll come across one of the most simple and heartbreaking bands around.
Their debut album, merely entitled Album, was released at the end of last month to huge acclaim; their lo-fi, sun-kissed melodies about heartache, loneliness, San Francisco and pills seemingly melting even the coldest of hearts.
So here they are in dreary east London, far from home, ready to play to a packed-out room. It's been quite a journey for them and much has been made of their "story". Songwriter and vocalist Christopher Owens was brought up in the notorious Children of God cult; his father left, his mother was forced to prostitute herself and suicide was rife. Escaping at 16, he worked lowly jobs to fund his spiralling drug habit before being saved by a millionaire businessman, moved to San Francisco and finally met the producer and bassist who would make up the other half of the band, Chet JR White.
Accompanied by another guitarist and a drummer for their live shows, they ease the crowd in, starting their superb set with "Laura", "Ghost Mouth" and "Substance", all of which recall the Californian pop of the Beach Boys. The seemingly joyous and poppy "Lust for Life" gets the room dancing, even if the melancholy subject matter belies the upbeat music. "I wish I had a father/ Maybe then I would have turned out right," croons Owens. His misery gets the biggest cheer of the night.
Their set peaks during "Hellhole Ratrace", which builds up to create a glorious wall of sound before going straight into the frenetic Jesus and Mary Chain-esque "Morning Light". They return for an encore of "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" which turns the room into a Fifties prom before they shyly retreat behind a black curtain.
There's something so innocent yet wounded about Owens that he makes quite the unlikely stage hero: the long hair pulled over his face; the dorky grin and slacker vocals; the harmonica he pulls out of his back pocket to play during "Solitude"; the meek peace sign he makes as he leaves the stage. Girls don't cry, but we just might.
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