Holding out for Christmas presents may make economic sense but in the case of "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" by the remarkable "Girls" it amounted to a prolonged form of musical torture. Listening to this album almost constantly for the past week confirms one of the great unheralded albums of 2011 with enough variety, charm and innovation to make other contenders seem woefully shallow and painfully inadequate. In one sense no surprises here for their brilliant debut "Album" (see separate review) was a blast of spaced out joyousness not least containing two of the best songs of the past decade "Hellhole rat race" and the irresistible exuberance of "Lust for life".
At the time their resident genius Christopher Owens told Uncut that "it could have been "Pet Sounds" if they had decent equipment to record it on". In one sense it's a nice bit of bravado, but in another Owen is travelling a path within the 54 minute boundaries of "Father, son and holy ghost" which is almost peerless on the current rock music scene with a scale of ambition which is admirable and almost obscene. Equally the musical step up from their debut is huge and you wish that whatever source of inspiration Owens is drinking from that he would buy a round for some other bands far less blessed. Listen to the great folk gospel single "Vomit" and its starts off evoking Radiohead of the era of OK Computer but by the end almost reprises "The great gig in the sky" with a Clare Torry style fade out. It's a superb song although matched by the gently boiling melancholia of the nearly 8 minute long "Forgiveness" one of the loveliest drifting songs you will have heard in a long while which builds to a great climax and instant recourse to the repeat button. It is often the simplicity of this album that makes it so great, for example the slow rock n roll blues of "Love like a river" could have easily been written by John Lennon as Owens niftily recasts a universal melody, while "My Ma" calls to mind vintage Neil Young. Equally the poptastic "Hunny bunny" with its hint of surf rock inspired harmonies does not break no ground but its just great, while "Die" is polished glass indie rock which will commence by knocking the ducks off your wall and yet fades out sounding like a missing link to Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here". The closer "Jamie Marie" shows that Owens probably has a great solo album up his sleeve, a gentle Dylanesque lament which is the perfect lo fi end to proceedings, while the tightly strung opening guitar lines of the lengthy "Just a song" lead into a complex structure, a sort of modern aquatic nightsong.
On the evidence presented on the truly wonderful "Father, son, holy ghost" it is clear that Christopher Owens is a first class pop savant who has produced an album which the Irish Times has rightly argued has "countless depths to plumb and myriad layers to unravel". Thus before facing in the direction of 2012 pause and step back into 2011 for an untrammelled pleasure.