Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Girls Broken Dreams Club Review

Broken Dreams Club

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I was never a huge fan of Girls’ debut album, the appropriately titled Album--it had some amazing songs on it, but I wasn’t thrilled with their overall sound, and I certainly didn’t think they were any near as incredible as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, and just about every other critic and music publication in the world claimed they were. A rather boring live show I witnessed at the Fillmore did little to change this opinion. And I still think they’re a bit overrated, to be honest. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think Broken Dreams Club was an excellent little record, an unpretentious 30-minute look into the heart of a downtrodden rock n’ roll everyman.

With the possible exception of the Chris Isaak-y “Alright,” all the songs on Broken Dreams Club are ballads. These songs are definitely rootsy, but not in the old-bastard-makes-bluegrass-album way. It is simply rock music that looks back to its origins in blues, folk, and country music. Steel guitars and horns bound about the album like jackrabbits, and the gentle hum of a lonely, Benmont Tench-style organ weaves in and out of many of the songs. These songs could have easily been written any time in the past 40 years.

However, upon listening, it’s easy to identify the modernity of these songs. In the pre-punk era, no band could have gotten away with a singer like Chris Owens, whose quirky voice has more in common with that of Elvis Costello than, say, John Mellencamp. Or the cartoonish but powerful and soulful “da-doo-ron-rons” on the epic closer “Carolina.” In other words, these songs are more than mere throwbacks to an older sound--they are simply timeless, universal rock songs recorded in a medium that will never go out of fashion.

Indeed, it is this timelessness that contributes to this band’s appeal. On Album, they cursed and referenced pizza but at the same time applied a bare-bones rock n’ roll aesthetic that has existed perhaps since before rock n’ roll itself. And if Album may not have been the most enjoyable listen for some (myself included), Broken Dreams Club is a thrill to listen to, whether you want to relax, dance, or just hear some good old-fashioned all-American rock.

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