Author’s note: I apologize in advance for being unable to really talk about Christopher Owens’ album without inevitably comparing it to the work of his former band, Girls. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this review.
The first time I listened to Girls, I was overtaken by the fact that Christopher Owens is going to be incredibly important to this generation. From the start, Album is an album that could fit into any decade of rock and roll very comfortably, likely including the ones that have yet to come. Somehow, it was an album that felt like one of the ones we were going to talk to our children about, and how we were so lucky to have been there to witness that band.
Then, Girls broke up, out of nowhere. Two albums in isn’t a bad way to go out, especially considering those were albums by a band that arrived fully formed, so there was never truly a need for the incredibly depressing feelings involved in wondering, “where could they have gone?” The only place for that band to go was up. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too terribly long for the solo debut from Christopher Owens, which he left the band to make.
First, the good news about Lysandre: if you were distraught by the fact that there wouldn’t be a third Girls record, fret not; this album has your fix, in an incredibly bite-sized portion. That portion size is one of the most striking and perplexing things about the album: its 11 songs stretch out to an almost disappointing 28 minutes, none of which come close to the four-minute mark. Owens is clearly sure of himself, and lyrically these are some of the most strong songs he’s written yet. “So, here we go, with my faith and my hand’s really shook up,” begins “Here We Go,” a statement of hope and confidence that feels so very, very far away from the slightly sorrowful hues behind those songs from before. This confidence is contradicted a few songs later, on “Love Is In The Ear Of The Listener,” where he spills out each and every concern he has about his abilities as a musician: “What if I’m just a bad songwriter / And everything I say has been said before?” in each stanza like this, he doubles back again: “Well, everything to say has been said before / And that’s not what makes or breaks us up.”
In its essence, Lysandre is a softer, more tender side of our troubled frontman, and really it isn’t a bad look for him. The entire thing has a habit of simply washing over you, and though this can prove boring for other bands, it works in Owens’ favor for pretty much of the time. Should the sax solo on “New York City” work? Probably not, but it’s hard to not want to groove down to the song’s jazzy breakdown. There’s also a definite sense of Owens as a world-class ringleader here: in every harmony and tempo change, it is clear that he has engineered this album to be exactly how it turned out, and though it is incredibly bare at times, it’s a remarkable thing that something this tight came together so quickly.
Now, the somewhat bad news: while Lysandre is a wonderful record, it’s hard to shake the wonder about why he needed to separate himself from former bandmate JR White. It could, of course, be argued that this is not the kind of album that people would want to hear from the band, but then again, who really cares? In addition to this, it’s also hard to shake the feeling of regression. The dynamic motion that made Girls so exciting feels almost altogether missing, save for the AM radio grooves that punctuate the album. This is excusable of course, but I’ve found myself wondering, “what would this have sounded like if it weren’t a solo record?”
Things like this are, of course, minor complaints. Owens feels like he’s working on building something here, and his stubbornness in the face of bullshit will no doubt make him one of our generation’s biggest success stories when all is said and done.I can’t truly bring myself to complain about each and every song he makes, no matter what name is on the cover. Lysandre may feel troubled at times, but I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.