I know you like it when I get excited about music, and I am excited about this album, but don't worry, this isn't going to be me going off the deep end and making it sound too significant. I'm excited about this album because I can't stop listening to it, because it's just so enjoyable, and that's saying something at a time when finding a moment to listen to music has been near impossible. Ok, what I want to talk about is the music but the story of frontman Christopher Owens' life so far is too colourful to ignore so here we go: He was raised within the Children of God religious movement, or cult for those of us who think that using the bible to make women prostitute themselves might negate your ability to call yourself otherwise. His older brother died as a baby when medical attention was denied due to the group's beliefs. His father left the group but the family remained, Owens' mother forced into prostituting herself. Owens' eventually made his own way out and was eventually taken under the wing of a millionaire. A move to San Francisco, a meeting with Chet "JR" White and Girls were born.
The main trick of the album is to use that life story as the starting point for lyrics which are both painful and funny and combine them with music which ranges from west coast harmonies and 60's infused pop to rock 'n' roll and shoegaze. There's an exuberant energy and wonder to the album which had me thinking of the way a character describes herself in a book I'm reading right now. A priest-child in Colombia, having been kept in darkened seclusion for their whole life and told only stories of the outside world without the experience of it would, once brought out into it find themselves in a state of 'bedazzlement and wonder'. It's possible that Owens seclusion and nomadic existence within the Children Of God and his subsequent escape has led to some of the joy that emanates from this album.
Lust for Life opens proceedings with a bounce in its step, countering against the lyrics in which amongst other things Owens wishes for what he didn't have: "I wish I had a father/ Maybe then I would've turned out right/Now I'm just crazy/I'm totally mad". But this is a song about the possibility of making a new start and handclaps lift it to a promising close. The frank lyrics continue on Laura; a pop song filled with yearning after a broken relationship. "You've been a bitch/I've been an ass/I don't want to point the finger/I just know I don't like it/I don't want to do this." It would have been really easy to repeat the name of the girl he misses on every chorus but the song is all the more effective for using it only the once, the vocals doubled up here for extra impact. There's a gorgeous swirling finish with vocals and instrumentation warping together. It's break-up again that dominates Ghost Mouth, a song which basks in its 60's influences, Owens calling himself a 'ghost man' after the end of a relationship. It is the desire to get a relationship started that drives God Damned a lo-fi track with echoey vocals that sounds as though it has been recorded on improvised equipment because he simply had to get the feelings down as soon as he had them.
It's old-school rock 'n' roll on Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker and Owens' "high school crush on a California girl". We then reach the literal and artistic centre of the album, Hellhole Ratrace. A previous single it is a great example of the lyrical and musical thrust of the album. Owens may need "some love and attention." but the optimism of a new shot at life is best put when he says that all he wants is to laugh and dance and to do those things with whoever the song is intended for. Halfway through the track is bolstered by big guitars which lend it an epic feel.
Owens' song titles are sometimes at odds with their content. Headache is actually an incredibly gentle track whilst Summertime contains warped keyboards, a heavy bass guitar and a grandstanding middle section where both rear up and wash over in a wave of sound. A little out of nowhere Morning Light is three minutes of shoegaze guitars followed by the pastoral instrumental Curls. The album finishes on hugely positive note with Darling in which Owens makes explicit how low he had been and how music has altered all that. "It's coming straight from my heart" he sings and there can be no doubting that. The great thing about Owens finding his "way in the song" is that it bodes well for what comes next. If their next album is even close to as eclectic, heartfelt and downright entertaining as this début then it'll be a treat.