ALBUM REVIEW: Christopher Owens – Lysandre

christopher owens lysandre

Written for the 405

The break up of Girls was a confusing one – not least of all because front man Christopher Owens, he of the golden locks and Brett Anderson-minus-Bowie voice and the member whose departure caused the dissolution of the project as a whole, seemed to be the only constant member. What flummoxed most was why they’d walk away from two of the best ‘indie rock’ albums of the decade (although they broke out of that particular ghetto pretty early on. What Owens has done next will only flummox further.

Like his work with Girls, Lysandre – named for the object of Owens’ affections during a French tour with his old band, the main subject of the album – is an album of songs which crib without self-consciousness or pretension from various sources, from the melodic indie rock of Teenage Fanclub to the softly-strummed tones of seventies European musicians to some lounge-jazz horns on ‘Riviera Rock’. The singer’s upbringing within the Children of God cult which kept him sheltered from all forms of media and music is well documented – but the ensuing glee with which he consumed all forms of music, regardless of genre prejudices or preconceptions, is still noticeable.

The thing with Lysandre is, whilst Owens is still primarily concerned with melody – and it’s still refreshing to hear songs that are so purposefully arranged and well-written, both musically and lyrically – he’s forgotten about the noise. What kept Girls on the right side of quaint, or twee, or fey, was the noise. ‘Hellhound Ratrace’ and ‘Vomit’ were big, sprawling pieces of sunshine, yearning and warm 12-string guitars that built and built into a cosy cocoon before collapsing in an onslaught of not-quite-Kevin Shields-noise.

At times, Lysandre could use a little bit of that roughness, and a little less of, say, the bouncy drums and flute-playing that blight the title track and ‘Everywhere You Knew’, leading Owens down the same dead end mid-period Belle and Sebastian found themselves trapped in.

Maybe it’s unfair to compare the album to Girls’ output quite so much, but it’s also inevitable – Owens was always the ‘front man’ of that band, and so this album is going to be received as a new Girls album in all but name. But his intentions with this album are noticeably different: it’s a much more intimate record, not in the sense of soul-bearing – there was plenty of that in Girls – but in that it’s a record written not just for Owens, but for the girl of the album’s title. It’s a record about falling in love, and travelling, and how when you return from either of those things you can find that “part of [you] is gone.”

Lysandre isn’t necessarily the record Girls fans will be expecting, or even want – they might be disappointed, they might be angry. They might think it sounds a little slight in comparison, or a little less adventurous, a little less exciting. Maybe they’re right to think so! But maybe that’s also missing the point, and maybe they’ll be missing out. But they’d be right about all the bloody flute.

7.5/10

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