“If your heart is broken, you will find fellowship with me.”
Lysandre, the debut solo album from former Girls frontman Christopher Owens, is presented variously as a relationship album, a concept album and a document of his experiences in his old band. More than anything though, it’s a quest for fellowship and understanding.
Anyone who knows anything about Girls will know all about Owens’ particular and peculiar past, and it’s hard not to use that as a basis for psychoanalysing everything he does. What is impossible to deny from Lysandre though is Owens’ desperate need to be understood – from that fellowship lyric, from lead single ‘Here We Go’, to ‘Love Is In The Ear Of The Listener’, a musical therapy session tackling one man’s self-doubt (“What if I’m just a bad songwriter and everything I say has been said before? What if everybody just thinks I’m a phoney? What if nobody ever gets it?”). The whole thing is incredibly intimate, like you’re in a room with Christopher singing directly to you. His voice is barely above a whisper at times, a personal and intense plea from him to you.
From such a man, a break-up, like in closing track ‘Part Of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue)’ is more gut-wrenching, the ever-present drug-taking more desperate, the moments of contentment more heartwarming. For all his self-doubt, it takes a certain amount of confidence to think you can get away with a line like “Kissing and a-hugging is the air that I breathe, I’ll always make time for love” – and a bagful of talent to be right.
The ‘concept’ element comes from one recurring piece of music, ‘Lysandre’s Theme’, a wistful little refrain played most often on a flute that lends a 70s feel to things. It’s a double-edged sword. In one sense it is unifying, but it also – if this isn’t too trite a comment – can make everything a bit repetitive. On first listen, the album feels homogenous, but on returning to it the subtleties start to shine through. ‘New York City’ has some of the manic energy of early Ooberman (this is a compliment), ‘Here We Go Again’ is full of “ooh-la-la-la” backing vocals and the saxophone-smooth groove of ‘Riviera Rock’ acts as a clever intermission.
Never though does he surpass the arresting, open-hearted ‘Here We Go’. Christopher Owens just wants you to get him. If your heart is broken – and let’s face it, whose isn’t? – you will find fellowship with him.
Words: Ali Mason