Label：映象唱片High Note Records
女孩乐团 - 青春写真
Girls - Album
。混合Beach Boys、The Beatles、Spiritualized的经典神采
Beach Boys般的阳光爽朗和The Beatles跨入七O年代的迷幻神采，混合着粗犷不羁的Lo-Fi质地，Christopher Owens和Chet “JR” White这两个隐身在「女孩」背后的大男孩，音乐里没有故作姿态的隐喻或华丽词藻，直率地说着关于心碎、寂寞和逝去恋情的种种，复古迷蒙的酸楚，紧紧牵系着每个人关于青春的记忆。
然而，这混杂甜美和苦涩的浪漫背后，却是Christopher Owens成长于「上帝之子」（Children of God）异教社群交织着自杀、卖淫的晦暗童年，但也是在这个地方，让他从「教友」前Fleetwood Mac吉他手Jeremy Spencer手中获得第一把吉他，并从这个与外界流行文化隔绝的封闭世界，吸纳六、七O年代的音乐养分，进而酝酿出属于Girls的独特怀旧声响。
耽溺于过往恋情的开场曲〈Lust For Life〉和〈Laura〉，洋溢着Beach Boys式的和谐旋律；〈Hellhole Ratrace〉拉扯着伤痕累累的心灵，弥漫宛如Spiritualized的深幽迷幻；〈Morning Light〉、〈Headache〉分别带来深邃迷乱的Shoegazing气息和Dream pop迷蒙动人的温度，至于「台湾特别盘」收录的〈Oh Boy〉和重新翻玩乡村名曲〈End Of The World〉，则有着Bradford Cox附身般的惨情绝美。
It's often said that great bands are more than just the sum of their parts. In which case, Girls - two San Francisco slackers who go by the name Christopher Owens (words and melodies) and JR White (production and general studio boffinry) - shouldn't need to worry. I mean, just look at the parts…
Let's start with the location: Just as the Velvets crackle with New York electricity and Smiths' songs come soaked in Manchester drizzle, so the music of Girls captures the stoned and sun-baked outlook of life in San Francisco. Taking the classic California pop template perfected by Brian Wilson and applying a woozy, lo-fi makeover, Girls make music that's trapped in a permanent adolescence, one where everyday is designed to be spent getting stoned, lazing in the park and obsessing over love. You'll detect 50's surf-pop, 60's psychedelia and 80's hardcore at play here, not to mention the more modern West Coast sounds of groups like The Tyde. But most of all, you'll hear a musical distillation of the frazzled, San Francisco lifestyle.
"We were both wasters before we met," admits JR. "We'd just be getting drunk and going out every night…"
"San Francisco is made for that lifestyle," adds Christopher. "Even the older people can’t nag at you because that's what they were doing in the 60s."
Next comes the heartbreak: Before Girls came into existence, Christopher played music with his girlfriend in a project called Curls. When the romance fizzled out, Christopher was forced to take over vocal duties and find a new musical partner.
"After I moved to San Francisco I immediately started going out with a girl who was also my best friend. For two years we were living together, making music together … so when we split up it was a pretty drastic change," admits Christopher. "The first batch of songs were pretty much all influenced by that."
Heartbreak and desire are themes that are all over Girls' album, whether it's lusting over a new girl ("I might never get my arms around you/But that doesn't mean that I won't try" - Lauren Marie) or longing for the one you once had ("Maybe if I really try with all of my heart/Then I could make a brand new start in love with you" - Lust for Life).
What's perhaps most striking about these songs - many which appear on Girls forthcoming debut album - is how simple and honest the lyrics are. Eschewing metaphor and flowery language for something far more direct, Christopher's words hit you straight in the heart. As he says himself: "Sometimes the best way is to have simple lyrics. There's this country song by Tim McGraw where he sings: "We're all looking for love and meaning in our lives." To me, that speaks volumes, even though it's so simple."
Last but by no means least is the story … and in Christopher Owens we have quite some story. Born into the hippie Children of God cult, Christopher spent his childhood travelling across the globe, attending prayer sessions whilst being shielded from the outside world. It was, in his own words, "pretty hellish … they thought they could hide us from a whole lot of stuff and teach us to be happy, perfect children of god. But you can't control people like that."
The full story of Christopher's time in the cult, which involves tales of suicide, prostitution and an eventual escape to Texas, is one for another time. But what's clear is that this is far more than just a neat backstory - life in the Children of God had a massive impact on Christopher's songwriting. It was there that he learnt to busk, there that he listened to a diverse array of music made by other cult members, and there that fellow cult member and former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer gave him his first guitar, an instrument he still uses to write songs on.
"The whole cult was really based around music," notes Christopher, admitting that he saw a beauty in a lot of the songs they would sing together. "In fact, a lot of Girls' music has a sound that's very much like the Children Of God music. There's a spiritual kind of quality. Even though I'm not at all religious and very much against the whole experience, it's there. Brian Wilson talks about the spiritual thing that music is. I don't know what that is exactly, but I know that if I just close my eyes then music takes me somewhere else."
After leaving the cult at 16 and spending several drug-fuelled years immersed in Amarillo's punk scene, Christopher headed off to find a natural home in San Francisco. It was here that Christopher fell into the local music scene, playing gigs with freak-folkster Ariel Pink and his Holy Shit project (Christopher: "I wouldn't have got into writing music at all if I hadn't played with Holy Shit - watching them play was like a lightbulb going off.") And it was here that he met the final, crucial part in the Girls story: JR.
Strong male friendships serve as the backdrop to some of the best rock'n'roll, from Mick'n'Keef through to John Squire and Ian Brown. Christopher and JR are no exception: not only do they spend all their time together - writing, rehearsing, partying - they even share a bedroom after knocking down the wall that divided their two rooms. And as Christopher's innocent, open-hearted songs began to take shape, JR was on hand to conjure up the perfect musical backdrop. Think of their debut album as a kind of DIY Pet Sounds, recorded in bedrooms and rehearsal spaces on broken equipment.
"I have these visions of grandeur, where I want to hire string sections and timpani, and really go for it like in the 60s," grins JR. "But we were doing it in our bedrooms. We mainly recorded onto reel-to-reel tape, and also on an old computer that shut down on us in the middle of the session. All sorts of variables made the recordings sound like they do."
"But we’re both from a punk background," adds Christopher. "So this is just our punk DIY version of great pop."
Perhaps the best entry point to Girls’ music is forthcoming single Hellhole Ratrace, which builds from gentle acoustic strums to a full-on fuzzy gospel explosion that shows off their love of Spiritualized.
"The day I came up with that song I ran out to find JR and tell him I'd written the best song of my life," reveals Christopher. "We dropped everything we were doing and started recording it."
Meanwhile, the accompanying video encapsulates their San Fran aesthetic perfectly. It was shot by Aaron Brown, one of the many arty outsiders who've become part of the Girls extended family.
You soon realise that every song has a story. Curls is a gorgeous little instrumental, one that Christopher's ex-girlfriend had previously refused to sing on because it wasn’t "rock’n'roll" enough. The handclap-strewn Lust for Life documents the time Christopher met up with his ex following their split and was forced to listen to all the great things she had going for her (a new boyfriend, a father, a beach party with friends). Meanwhile, Laura is a plea to a best friend, asking if they can patch up their differences and start afresh. All feature Chris in astonishingly honest, heart-on-sleeve storytelling mode.
Elsewhere, variety is the order of the day. Far from simple Cali-pop revivalists, the Girls album is a music obsessive's paradise, with references dotted all over the place. Listen carefully and you'll pick up everything from Martin Denny-style exotica (Headache) to blissed-out shoegaze (Morning Light). You'll hear the vocal stylings of Elvis Costello, the spaced-out fuzz of Spaceman 3 and cheeky pop references to the likes of Prince and Iggy. Like Girls themselves, the music is the sum of many fascinating parts.
JR, for one, agrees: "To me, it's the next 30 songs we've already written that are the most exciting. We’re the kind of group where you're gonna want to follow our next step."
And where will this fascinating journey lead to?
The pair shrug, happy to travel wherever inspiration takes, a typically San Fran kind of attitude.
"Let's just say," they grin,"that everyone should definitely keep in touch."