Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Polyvinyl
Numerous side projects (The Babies, All Saints Day, La Sera) make Vivian Girls’ third LP in as many years an impressive feat. Tense, killer harmonies (“The Other Girls,”“I Heard You Say” ) are packed into tighter songwriting, putting Cassie Ramone’s vocals at the forefront. What’s key is they remain as disaffected as brother band Crystal Stilts, and cling to longing, woozy Slumberland vibes without fear of brighter tones, trendy surf and obvious, intelligible lyrics (little more than an amusing addition).
The careering prominence of New Jersey by-way-of Brooklyn trio Vivian Girls has been charted not only by their own celebrated musical offerings but also in their ability to monopolise the contemporary girl group market. After original drummer Frankie Rose quit the band to start up the eponymous outfit Frankie Rose and the Outs, her replacement Ali Koehler jumped on board then swiftly left again to join Best Coast. 'Kickball' Katy Goodman assumed a solo identity herself earlier on in the year with her side project La Sera and more recently, Cassie Ramone decided to branch out with The Babies.
After the release of a disappointing second album that sounded like a rushed copy of their debut, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Vivian Girls were just a noisy flash in the pan that were over almost as soon as they started. You’d be wrong, though, because the trio’s third album is a leap in quality and sound that is as welcome as it is surprising. Share the Joy has all the energy and noise of the first two albums, but there are three big factors that contribute to the success of this record.
Review Summary: never the other girls. With the rest of Share the Joy still to come, “The Other Girls” raises some serious questions about Vivian Girls. Or maybe it just makes us smirk- a line as forward as “I don’t wanna be like the other girls” spouted first-thing on the newest record from one of many fuzz-pop, all-female bands is gonna do just that, isn’t it? It feels sort of like a direct nod to all the stuff that went down last year in this genre, whether it was Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast or the ever-boyish Wavves, like an adamant refusal to be tagged in a genre where it’s becoming all too easy to be one or another.
If there’s any band that proves how sped-up the half-life of blogosphere hype can be, it’s Vivian Girls. So while it really wasn’t so long ago—2008, to be precise—that the group was being hailed for spearheading the revival of ‘60s girl-group pop and ‘90s lo-fi indie at the same time, Vivian Girls now seem like underappreciated veterans of a scene they helped to make, surpassed in acclaim and popularity by acts they helped to launch who took their shtick and pushed it in directions they either couldn’t or didn’t want to go. Outpunked by Dum Dum Girls and outpopped by Best Coast (both of which have featured former Vivian Girls drummers), Vivian Girls became yesterday’s news before they had the chance to grab all the headlines due to ‘em.
“The Other Girls” opens the Vivian Girls' third album Share the Joy with a familiar burst of energy. The jab recalls the group's brisk and punchy style to date. Then abruptly the tempo moderates and the group leisurely makes its way through a meandering guitar solo and an endless cycle of choruses. After this six-minute salvo the band makes clear its new head-space.The Vivian Girls have made the inevitable progression of most two-minutes-and-the-truth rawk bands towards long-form rock.
In The Realms of the Unreal was the magnum opus of Henry Darger — transgressive outsider artist extraordinaire, from whose work Vivian Girls take their name — and though this territory may not have been where our journey with the Girls began, it is where we now begin to find ourselves. Or, to put it another way, for 60s revivalists, the quest for (the) Shangri-La(s) continues. On their third album, Vivian Girls lift their gaze purposefully from their shoe uppers and direct it squarely at the dizzily lost horizons of that decade.
Good ol' brevity-- the soul of wit and arguably the Vivian Girls' greatest asset on their 2008 debut LP. That record honored some obvious predecessors-- C86, Slumberland, and K Records to name a few-- but just as importantly, it realized that those scenes had a thing for collector's items and myth-making. Starting off with a 22-minute-long LP that was originally limited to 500 copies, Vivian Girls seemed like the kind of band that would nail it the first time, flame out, and then disappear forever.
Vivian Girls built a reputation on the short shrift of soda-pop rock on their self-titled debut in 2008. The follow-up, 2009’s Everything Goes Wrong, an arguable victim of the sophomore slump, continued playing with the same old garage-addled girl group sounds. On this latest effort, the girls — Cassie Ramone, Katy “Kickball Katy” Goodman, and Fiona Campbell — attempt to stretch their songwriting, but end up muddying the water.
On Share the Joy, the third album (and their first on Polyvinyl) from all-girl Brooklyn trio Vivian Girls, the band sounds like it’s teetering on the edge of something – a breakthrough perhaps, or maybe that’s a breakdown we’re seeing on the horizon. This record almost sounds like a step forward for the group, but it all depends on your point of view – sure, those trademark ethereal, mildly-off-key vocals are still there, and if you hated them for the first two records, you’ll probably still hate them. But behind the vocals, the musicianship has improved significantly, bolstering the garage rock with some solid drumbeats and sneaky, raucous guitar jamming.