We are barely through January, yet I think I have already found my bugbear album of 2013. Lysandre, by Christopher Owens of Girls fame, has to be one of the most frustrating albums I’ve heard in ages. This is Owens’ first solo album since the band’s split back in July, a brief concept album about a French barmaid that Owens met during the early days of Girls, documenting their time together.
At first listen, you are struck by the ridiculousness of half of the tracks on the album. Hearing the lyrics “love is all you need, kissing and hugging is the air I breathe” on ‘Lysandre’, backed by an unavoidable 1980s sax is at first pretty nauseating; as is the overload on schmaltz in songs such as ‘Love is in the Ear of the Listener’. Worse still, you couldn’t help but feel that the weird, tropical tiki-kitsch of ‘Rivera Rock’ makes it an ideal contender for the soundtrack of the film Cocktail; you’re worried that Christopher Owens has done a funny turn and has gone and buggered everything up in Girls and everything as a joke.
All this sounds like it should be a recipe for disaster, but this is what makes Lysandre so infuriating – it’s just so damn likeable. Listen again, and it’ll grab you and glue your ears to your headphones as you think: really? Is this really what years in Girls has come to? You start to appreciate the madness and what is really good about it – funny little Je t’aime moments (without the blatant creepiness); the recurring melody like a bad dream of ‘Lysandre’s Theme’ linking the songs back to each other; the menagerie of instruments not heard of since ‘87. The soppiness and pedestrian lyrics make a point, and you realise that this album is so vanilla that it’s genius. One or two tracks really catch you, like ‘New York City’, which has a louche, Velvet Underground feel to it, and the juxtaposition between the harsh meaning and the mellow, buttercup melody is pretty cool.
Hence what I meant by frustrating is not that this is bad or dull; it’s more that you feel you really shouldn’t like Lysandre yet you still do (a little bit). It’s actually quite a novel turn from Christopher Owens. Having such a nutty background in a cult, a nomadic adolescence and being part of Holy Shit to boot, you would have thought he would carry on down the same line and bury himself in tasteful obscurity as yet another trendy musician. However, I think I like what Christopher Owens has done better – he’s liberated himself from his previous fame in Girls and created something quite different in Lysandre. It’s an album that’s annoying as hell, yet bizarrely captivating. Try it, I dare you.
Released on 14th January 2013 by Turnstile Music