“Dear All… This may come as a surprise to many”, wrote Christopher Owens on a twitter post, dated July 2nd. The break up of Girls played out like one of those shock divorces. And rather than being the nosey old couple that sit in their third person positions and peep through windows to watch other people’s relationships physically unfold in the wee hours of the morning, we were sat in the first person. Unwrap Christopher Owens’ proto-legal statement, you’ll discover that he didn’t just leave Girls the band, but also Girls as prescribed as a name to the relationship that the group had with their fans. “I need to do this in order to progress” sounded like some artistic variation of “It’s not you, it’s me”….
While he himself may not have been aware of the dynamic of this polyamorous relationship that the band had forged in this short space of time, it’s testament to their talent as a group teeming with artistic flare that they still managed to weigh down their dark emotional discontent with spritely wit, and embed themselves in the musical folklore of the late noughties.
Still, it could also be the case that we were just ignoring problems that, were actually staring at us quite blankly in the face? Throughout Girls’ short tenure it was very much Christopher Owens “et al”: think the Jimi Hendrix Experience, think Diana Ross and the Supremes – all groups fronted by potent figures with back up bands consigned to the footnotes of history.
So if this is the case, would Owens take the lazy route and just produce a Girls record under the name that it should have been under all this time? No. Lysandre is where Girls end and Owens begins, truly and freely, although he continues to write words that seems to almost have a kinetic aura of itself.
As a 29-minute ode to manic and depressive moments of love, lyrics like “If your ears are open, you will here honestly from me tonight” from ‘Here We Go’, sound as though they’ve never been said before, or at least never as genuinely felt as when delivered by Owens’ understated half-singing/half-stating voice. On ‘Broken Heart’ he takes us further on love’s journey, an octave higher: ‘Oh wish it wasn’t true but, you fell in love with that girl”, towards the end of the sentence sweeping the vocal up a note higher, creating a fragile and affecting moment.
Fans may be glad to hear glimpses of Girls on tracks like ‘Here We Go Again’, with its infusion of garage rock and ’6os pop, and perhaps on one of many sensitive songs on the album, title track ‘Lysandre’. These music moments coupled with the emotive effectiveness that reflect Owens natural songwriting ability are where the album shines. The problem is they aren’t a grand departure from the artist’s previous tenure in his old band; a problem that he (and only he) seems to have an issue with.
The opening of the album begins with a 38-second Gaelic sounding flute, with a guitar following its every meander. And while this opening is endearing, the album becomes marred by its continual presence at the beginning and end of most tracks. In a bid to create some sonic cohesiveness and, perhaps most importantly, include a sound not abundantly present in his former works, it serves only to distract, and in fact sounds like a forced attempt to create something “different”. It’s a shame that the album’s ‘Part of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue)’ with its merry ditty must be preceded by the self-indulgent flute and guitar, although this time it does make a little more punch with added percussion.
And so, on Lysandre, Owens seems to be struggling in parts with the fall out of Girls, as we were when it was first announced. And while the issues are only in parts, they are in very glaringly open parts that cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, for the most part Lysandre is a masterful exhibition of how to execute and relay truth and emotion.