Album Reviews

Boygenius – The Record

(Interscope/Polydor) UK release date: 31 March 2023

The three talents of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker combine to produce something greater than the sum of its parts

Boygenius - The Record A ‘supergroup’ seems almost too facile a term to define Boygenius. It’s a phrase more associated with the bloated male egos of washed-up bands, looking for one last pay day. This collaboration of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker is more a meeting of minds, three women in their late 20s coming together to become more than the sum of its parts.

Boygenius began life when Baker saw Dacus reading a Henry James novel backstage at a venue, and a friendship based on a love of literary greats began. Soon, Bridgers, almost a kindred sprit of the two other musicians, was also on board, and following a co-headline tour in 2018, the trio’s debut EP was released.

It’s been a long wait for the official debut album (which is understandable, given the schedules of the three major players), but happily, it’s just as special as you’d expect. The lack of ego and supportive atmosphere shines through the record – there’s no ‘leader’ in Boygenius, with the songwriting credits and lead vocals equally shared between Bridgers, Dacus and Baker.

After a brief a cappella introduction of Without You Without Them, which demonstrates just how well the trio can harmonise, $20 kicks in with a proper crunch – full of guitar riffs and ending with a cathartic scream. It’s almost as a statement of intent from the band, determined to prove that they’re not the ‘sad indie girl aesthetic’ band that some may have written them off as.

It’s an album full of sly humour – there’s a song named after Leonard Cohen, which not only name-drops one of his most famous lines (“There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”) but also describes him as “an old man having an existential crisis in a Buddhist monastery writing horny poetry”. You can almost sense the Canadian legend smiling in approval from the afterlife.

The Bridgers-led Emily I’m Sorry is a lovely, wistful ballad with lines like “I’m 27, and I don’t know what I want” and musing about moving “back to Montreal, I’ll get a real job”, while Cool About It takes the finger-picking acoustics and blissful harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel and updates them for a whole new generation.

Yet it’s when the band take an unexpected turn that The Record really catches fire. Satanist boasts a riff that Nirvana would be proud of, with Baker spitting out lyrics about scoring ecstasy and killing the bourgeoisie, “at least until you find out what a fake I am”. Not Strong Enough is a polished rock anthem which sees Bridgers, Baker and Dacus taking turns on lead vocals before joining together for a soaring chorus. It’s a stunning example of three talents combining to produce something greater than the sum of their parts.

There’s also a sincerity about the album which has the capability to emotionally floor you, as in We’re In Love, a Dacus-led track which is a simple declaration of love to her bandmates and explores insecurity and cloudy futures (“Will you still love me if it turns out I’m insane….if you rewrite your life, may I still play a part?”). It even ends with the trio nodding to Taylor Swift, paying homage to the “I could go on and on and on and I will” line from 1989’s This Love.

The hushed atmospherics of Letter To An Old Poet bring things to a contemplative closer, and thoughts will inevitably turn to what comes next. When the chemistry between the three band members can produce an album like this, to restrict us to just one Boygenius record would be a real shame.

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Boygenius – The Record