Friends reunited. Supergroup prove they are definite article on debut album.
When Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus released their Boygenius EP in 2018, slyly posing as Crosby Stills & Nash on the sleeve, it seemed like a one-off statement of companionable solidarity, one unlikely to be repeated when – to use that old-fashioned showbusiness language they quickly make redundant – their individual stars were on the rise. Despite the successes of their three separate albums between 2020 and 2021 – Baker’s Little Oblivions, Bridgers’s Punisher and Dacus’s Home Video – they were drawn back together when Bridgers asked on their group-chat “Can we be a band again?”
The Record is the welcome response to that question, a set of songs that stands as a show of collective strength without any diminishing of their distinctive personalities. It’s a remarkably graceful piece of work, free of moments where an ego clutches at your sleeve, or the wrong kind of creative tension spikes through. The opening a cappella Without You Without Them - a track that might have been recorded at a pre-war church social - pleads for unfettered intimacy, for immersive knowledge of another person. “I want to hear your story and be a part of it/take your father before you/his mother before him,” they sing together, voices rising upwards, “Who would I be without you, without them?”
This idea of knowing and being known is central to The Record – how far can you let your true nature show before people turn away? You want to be seen, but how much is too much? “Once I took your medication to know what it’s like,” admits Bridgers on the three-pronged stadium-folk of Not Strong Enough, but the boundary issues don’t stop there. “Will you be an anarchist with me?” goads Baker on Satanist, its atypically horned riff all wisecracking slacker swagger, “sleep in cars and kill the bourgeoisie?/At least until you find out what a fake I am.” (For all the angst, Boygenius are funny, too; the confusingly Elliott Smith-like Leonard Cohen refers to not being “an old man having an existential crisis at a Buddhist monastery/writing horny poetry”.)
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There’s no doubt there are three people operating here: on Revolution 0 or Emily I’m Sorry, you can hear how Bridgers shakes her songs up like an emotional snowglobe, letting the flurry settle back around her in new drifts and shapes; Baker’s more direct attack perfectly serves the raging $20. Dacus, meanwhile, tends to feel like she’s scattering pages from her diary while looking you directly in the eye, not least on the astonishing testament of We’re In Love, which seems to go beyond earthly love and into the eternal. Yet The Record is beautifully integrated, each song feeling like an ongoing conversation, a harmonious thread they can pick up any time. It’s very much worth getting to know it.
The Record is out 31 March, via Interscope
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