From the announcement that well-loved indie San Francisco duo Girls had disbanded last July, frontman Christopher Owens has been busy recording his first solo offering to pass the time. Supposedly Owens’ coming-of-age narrative from Girls’ first tour, yet ‘Lysandre’ is surprisingly immature. Weepy nostalgia and child-like lyrics make for more groans and facepalming than they do provoke a philosophical muse on the journey of Owens’ soul.
Think less of an epic odyssey but more of a winter stroll through the park with your dad’s old film camera rounded off with an Instagrammed mochaccino in Starbucks because you got a little cold through your fingerless gloves. But what make this all a little more disappointing is the impression that Owens wanted this project to go in a more full-scale 1970s concept album-esque direction. The inclusion of a repeating “Lysandre’s Theme”, the sound effects that close “Here We Go Again” (side one of the record) and the final “Epilogue”, all point to a bigger structure or a higher form in Owens’ mind that just couldn’t be realized on record.
Instead the repeating theme is a mildly irritating medieval-y descending melody that abruptly ends the first four songs and niggles itself into later points in the album. Why we have to hear this theme, or what even it means, are never explained and yet we are subjected to it over and over. And when we finally reach the eponymous album-track centrepiece, we are greeted with the chorus line, ‘Kissing and a-hugging are the air that I breathe, I’ll always make time for love’. How that is an expression of coming-of-age I will never know.
Moments of maturity raise their wary head in brief intervals throughout Lysandre. The bolder guitars on “New York City” and evocative lyrics on “Part Of Me” stand out as pieces of Owens’ adult self straining to make its mark on the album. But all in all, his first solo album seems to tell the fairly bland story that Christopher Owens went on tour, took some drugs, doubted himself a little, came home and had a breakup, but then wasn’t really phased by it all. It doesn’t bring the listener close and it certainly doesn’t create a jot of empathy, but I suppose it is a story.
Perhaps the most memorable line on Lysandre is the question ‘What if I’m just a bad songwriter?’ from mid-album crooned low point “Love Is In The Ear Of The Listener”. And while I wouldn’t want to give a straight and outright no to that question, I would ask Christopher Owens to maybe write about something a little more captivating next time. And also to just get a hair cut.By Chris Bennigsen