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"Broken Dreams Club"

Girls – Broken Dreams Club
18 November 2010, 13:00 Written by Matt Dando

Superlatives were exhausted last year as critics rushed to heap praise on Girls’ debut record Album. Maybe the most potent commendation sent their way was how they went about creating a sound so distinctly detached from their peers. They unashamedly cling to an array of influences which span generations their age wouldn’t logically transpire. Presented in such an unequivocal manner it resembled another time, but yet felt so ominously poignant.

With such affection – of which Christopher Owens is so overtly gracious for – comes an expectation. On Album Owens made no attempts to mask his sentiment with metaphor, opting instead for an apparent ingenuousness – in its most honourable sense – which is instinctive to his nature. By his own admission Owens doesn’t have the innate capabilities for lyrical over-complexities and explicit story songs. Those expecting such progression may well have felt slightly unmoved when ‘Heartbreaker’ was offered as a free download last month. It could have almost been lifted from their debut was it not for the obvious studio spruce up. Unreliable equipment has been duly replaced and a home studio installed. Production virtuoso Chet “JR” White has done away with the musky recording aesthetic and replaced it with a sumptuous, sonorous sound. Drums now echo and percussion rustles with a definite clarity but Owens’ gooey romanticism remains the constant. But for all that ‘Heartbreaker’ beholds – an undeniable beauty alongside an infectious guitar solo – it posed more questions of the band than it answered.

A “step up” we are told in a handwritten message from Owens, a “letter of intent”. All begins to take shape once Broken Dreams Club is heard in its entirety. It became apparent that the EP will mark the introduction of horns into an ever-expanding sound for the band. But quite the prominence they play on opener ‘The Oh So Protective One’ sees Girls not merely shuffle forward but take a healthy sidestep and stride onwards. Owens this time playing onlooker to lost love – continually switching from third to first person – before urging them to act upon the impulse “When just a look could be the start”.

‘Broken Dreams Club’ waltzes along, typically soaked in self-pity, amongst the country-tinged backdrop with Owens crooning unassumingly which allows some delicious guitar licks to flourish. The listener’s patience is rewarded with a mournful burst of brass which emphatically displays the power of utilising session musicians. It is not the first time we’ve heard Girls seek inspiration from Jazz & Blues – ‘Solitude’, the ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ 10″ B-Side, would have nestled effortlessly here.

‘Alright’, while initially appearing to be well and truly jazz imbued, places an emphasis back on the guitar. Ryan Lynch’s crisp, blues-based lines recall Carlos Santana and act as a clear indicator of the importance Girls have placed on instrumental here. It’s a track that deals in refinements and illustrates a confidence the band have in subtle sophistication. ‘Substance’, however, is the EP’s acme . Owens and White have made no attempt to hide the role drugs has played for them as a band, so it was only a matter of time before a song was penned solely about just that. “Come on take it / It’s a simple life” exudes just how nonchalant their attitudes have become. Owens’ sensual swoon is interrupted by another fine guitar breakdown before being joined by a female vocalist to extraordinary effect.

Eight-minute slow burner ‘Carolina’ brings the curtain down on a swaggering return. A mixture of pedal and psychedelic effects wearily bring it in to focus before Owens builds to a surprising and somewhat all-too-familiar chorus melody. What proves to be the only gripe on an otherwise lustrous record, it sounds uncreatively like Album track ‘Ghost Mouth’, although a glorious rock ‘n’ roll send-off manages to add a great deal of gloss to ensure a departure filled solely with gratification .


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