Let’s not beat around the bush here: Christopher Owens has every right to be ***ed up. The guy grew up in a cult, one of those ‘60s hippie-era religious backlashes gone terribly wrong. He was brought up to believe the outside world was one of moral degeneracy and that outside influence would be the end of all that he held dear. But then something happened that cued sparks of rebellion in him. The older kids began to smuggle in poor quality tapes of Guns N Roses, Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, and suddenly there was something out there for him. So he left.
It’s a little bit difficult to not be absolutely astonished that an album like this came from a kid that didn’t know pop music existed for more than a third of his life. But then again, it’s kind of understandable. His music, at times, feels like a knee-jerk reaction to being thrown into a world with no one to tell you what you can and can’t do. In fact, Owens states himself that the very first thing he connected with after coming into the ‘real world’ was punk rock. It’s so fitting it’s a little bit poetic. No longer were there any boundaries of which he had to follow, music he couldn’t listen to, and books he couldn’t read. Christopher Owens could do whatever the *** he wanted.
But this is much more complex than rebellion. Album
is a record as confused with itself as much as any listener could be. Owens grew up in a tiny little box with no idea what was outside of its darkened little corners and now that this box was open, what was he supposed
to do? “Lust for Life” bemoans, “I wish I boyfriend, I wish I had a loving man in my life, I wish I had a father, maybe then I would’ve turned out right” and defeating the songs sunny jangle-pop guitars and doo-wop backing vocals, is how absolutely tragic it is.
His voice channels the blunt enunciation of a young Elvis Costello without the social commentary, instead focusing his energy on tackling his most difficult problem: himself. Album
is, ultimately, about identity. For all of his fuzzed out, 60s surf pop adoration, what really cuts to the core are those broken, confused words, and it’s what makes Album
so heavy-hitting. The slow-moving centerpiece, “Hellhole Ratrace” is the purest example of that, packing layers of backing ‘oohs’, acoustic strumming, and feedback one by one all to distract us, or perhaps himself, from the real problems at hand: “I don’t wanna cry my whole life through / No, I wanna do some laughing too”.
Girls is the platform for years of suppressed emotional discharge and Owens pours himself into every nook and cranny of this record; his rebellion, his confusion, his cry for help. This is his therapy and it’s sad, so sad, but as it comes to an end, you’re a little bit glad. The hopeful incline of “Lauren Marie” or the happy-go-lucky nature of “Summertime” make you think maybe Chris is getting better, and as he states himself in “Darling”: “I was feeling so sad and alone that I found a friend in the song that I’m singing” and it makes you feel good too. That’s how endearing of a character Owens reflects through Album
and this is, in every sense, his album.