Girls frontman Christopher Owens grew up in the Children of God cult. His older brother died as a baby because the cult didn't believe in modern medicine. His dad left when he was young. His mother was forced to prostitute to herself to attract non-members to the cult, and some children in the cult were forced to have sex with adults.
Because of this, no one would be surprised if Girls' debut LP, "Album," was drenched in melancholy, more like a therapeutic outlet for Owens to exercise his demons than a vehicle to deliver one of the great pop albums of 2009. But alas, Girls has done just that.
From the first song, "Lust for Life,"to the album closer, "Darling," Owens turns his significant disadvantages — a horrific childhood — into a strength: He's a man with nothing to lose. Each strum of the guitar, each note crooned, is done with such a vigor and enthusiasm for his craft, it can only be coming from a man who has been given a second lease on life.
On the album's upbeat songs, like the hook-filled "Lust for Life," Owens sounds like Elvis Costello jamming under the sunny, California sun. "Oh I wish I had a suntan, I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine," Owens sings triumphantly, with soft "ooh bah bahs" humming behind his melody. When you've spent your childhood in Hell, I guess it's the little things that matter most.
Even with slower, more melancholy tracks like "Laura" and "Hellhole Ratrace," the songs have the simplicity and soul of the '50s ballroom hits that Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley churned out at their peaks. If these songs don't belong at high school dances while two sweethearts dance nose-to-nose, I don't know what does.
"I dont want to die without shaking up a leg or two. Yeah, I want to do some dancing too," Owens sings on"Hellhole Ratrace. "So come on, come on, come on, come on, dance with me." With songs this good, it's an invitation that's hard to turn down.
Check out the music video for "Lust for Life" below. For more reviews of "Album" by Girls, click here.