What’s a Punchout? It’s like mixed martial arts for pop culture: two reviewers battling over one film or book or musical release–and you get to decide who wins. Who wrote the better review? Whose opinion do you agree with? Scroll down to vote for the review you like best. Support your favorite reviewers, because we’ll be keeping score. And we want to know what you think: please comment and feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost
True Panther Sounds
Girls Do It Better
by Matt Gonzales (3-0)
Girls’ intermittently terrific debut album (cheekily titled Album), was heralded so enthusiastically by DIY music blogs when it came out in 2009 that one could have been mistaken for assuming they were the second coming of Deerhunter or something. But after the hype surrounding that album’s exhilarating lead single, “Lust for Life,” dried up, the blogosphere backed off a bit, as if to say, “Hey, Girls are alright, but let’s face it, they’re no The National.”Father, Son, Holy Ghostmight change that. I even heard NPR calling it one of the finest albums of the year yesterday. (That’s a good thing for indie rock bands, right? I don’ t even know anymore.)
To see why, just listen to the first single, “Vomit,” a six-and-a half-minute epic that starts as a funereal dirge and culminates in an arm-waving catharsis reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”—gospel choir and all. It’s miles away from the sugar rush pop of “Lust for Life”—although Father, Son, Holy Ghostoffers some that, too. Take “Honey Bunny,” which kicks off with the cinematic swagger of “Born to Run” before evolving into a glittery surf guitar anthem. It’s a rare instance of instant gratification on an album that, generally, requires repeated and accommodating listens to be appreciated.
Does that mean Father, Son, Holy Ghostis no fun? If you enjoy picking up on sly sonic references to other bands, appreciate dynamic takes on classic pop arrangements, and aren’t scared off by an album with three songs that exceed the 6-minute mark, then no. But if you’re looking for no-frills power pop, yes. That’s no surprise, though: singer Christopher Owens has flatly said he meant the title of this album seriously.
These songs born of spiritual yearning. Not Bono spiritual (thank god), but Brian Wilson spiritual—the damaged, isolated, hurting-but-hoping kind of spiritual that almost any teenager, and maybe even you, reader, can relate to.
Girls Looks Pretty In Your Playlist
by Stephen Nowak (1-0)
Nobody likes a namedropper, but it’s tough to review an album or band without comparing it or them to other albums or bands. Which of course opens the door to the possibility that your reader isn’t all that familiar with those other albums or bands. Unless it’s the Beach Boys, a band I couldn’t help but think about no more than twenty seconds into “Honey Bunny,” the album’s opener.
Then there’s “Die,” a tune strikingly similar to Wolfmother’s “Woman,” but without the face-melting intensity I’m accustomed to. You may even catch hints of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” in the track as lead singer Christopher Owens trickles in with a few vocals.The variety of Father, Son, Holy Ghostis hard not to like. Girls demonstrate their range with this one, the result of which is a collection of songs with something for everyone. It’s reflective, playful (think Fountains of Wayne), and even has heavier pockets of rock here and there. But Girls’ best hook on the album has to be “Alex”—a quintessential head bopping, steering-wheel-tapping, feel-good tune all about an irresistible gal named Alex.For best results . . .
Cue up “Alex” just before picking up a first date. And she’ll be all, “OMG! Who is this? This is SOOO good! You have AMAZING taste in music. Let’s just skip dinner, go back to your place and have sex.” Or he’ll be all, “Wow. Who is this? This is really good. You have AMAZING taste in music. Maybe after dinner—if you’re up to it—we could go back to your place and . . . I don’t know . . . talk.”OK, so Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghostmay not get you laid. But it’s laden with surefire hits for any playlist—the kind of songs your friends can’t help but ask you about. Because you always have the coolest fuckin’ music.