Raising the Romantic Bar a Little High: Girls at the Troubadour
Check out Timothy Norris' photo gallery of Girls at the Troubadour.
Caution, a Girls concert induces post-amorous nostalgia. You'll seek the last time someone lovingly said "nothing compares to you" during "Ghostmouth," and if nobody's fought for your honor lately, "Goddam" is a downer. Singer Christopher Owens raises the sensitive romantic bar a little high.
At the packed Troubadour Saturday night, the modern balladeer, who wore red stockings, led his band through a rocking pop journey from the '50s onwards that may have made a little more sense emerging in the 1990s. No electro drum machine disco. Music arrangements Phil Spector might salute; 1983-Robert Smith-quality lyrics; a swing through Neil Young's tape collection before bumping into Ariel Pink.
The Troubadour practically slow-danced during "Hellhole Ratrace," a sweet plea for a darling with whom to share a laugh and shake a leg. Cue montage: Rushing back to a lover's arms, realizing a grand purpose, coming-of-age rom-com. I'm giving up _________ for love! Crisp, clear riffs intensify the story. Sunshine breaks through clouds. Someone kisses true love, a best friend until 10 minutes ago when he/she tore up a plane ticket and arrived at the door -- enter cool psychedelic power jam. The drums remain grounded while the guitars are pierced by cupid's arrow. Renewed hope appears.
Love struck Romeo's backstory informs the band's first single, "Lust For Life." It describes a fatherless, pale, hungry, "fucked in the head" guy looking for a girlfriend and a beach house. Some bio research reveals that Owens' father left his family when his mother was pregnant with him, and Owens' older brother died from pneumonia. As members of the Children Of God cult, religion ruled against getting the child hospital care.
Growing up in a hippie "free love" turned extremist community, Owens spent his formative years rebelling and witnessing his mom suffer through disrespectful men. Cult member and early Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer gave him his first guitar. His rebel friends showed him Guns 'N' Roses. Once free, Owens awakens a 1956 rock and roll crooner locked in his guts. Band co-founder JR White adds swinging wall of sound musical backdrops -- see "Lauren Marie" or Morning Light" -- that nourish vivid images and impressions, striking empathy chords as naturally as a movie.
By comparison, opening band The Morning Benders are just on the cusp of a daydream with a bluesy Radiohead soundtrack. "It's like a passionate energy but 'chillified.' It's like the weather," Benders' singer Chris Chu explained. His group wore cool, simple sneakers and tucked in shirts. The first band Tamaryn built Disintegration-era Cure progressions and its front-woman provided a goth Stevie Knicks appeal. They were warm appetizers before the main course.