Release Date: Sep 30, 2008
Record label: In The Red
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The self-titled debut album of this Brooklyn-based band does something that is immediately accessible as it is exceptional: You just don’t hear the combination of aggressive guitar noise and weirded-out girl-group harmonies that often. But even after the immediate novelty of this combination wears away and you start thinking of your particular genealogy for this band -- jangly C86 bands, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Spector’s girl groups, the Beach Boys, or, even, in the Girls’ own words, the Wipers and Nirvana -- you are still left with the thing itself: the incredibly catchy, exciting and enjoyable music. When weighed down by this much history, it’s all in the execution, and the Vivians execute perfectly.
It starts with discordance. Things don't quite seem to be gelling on opener All the Time as distant distortion sets in and a disjointed chorus comes out of nowhere. All at once there's a squall of lo-fi confusion and dissidence. Slowly, things start to make sense and by the time the catchy third track Wild Eyes comes along the Vivian Girls' latent strengths are clear.
Trio packs polyphonic power in concise debutWashed in swathes of reverb and twee-twinged triadic harmonies, this self-titled debut from Brooklyn's Vivian Girls romps and rattles by in less than 22 minutes. The effect is an on-the-nose affair with banged-out, cluttered tracks in no need of curtain-call outros. Oft-inscrutable lyrics add taut punk rock tautologies: “Everyone is everyone is everyone” the girls mew in “Damaged,” while “No” features only melodic extrapolations of its titular word.
At 21 minutes long Vivian Girls' debut album is over almost before it begins; it flashes by in a cloud of sludgy distortion and hissy noise. The trio belongs to a proud heritage of noise pop that started (as do so many things) with the Velvet Underground, went through to the Shop Assistants and early My Bloody Valentine in the mid-'80s, and continued on to Black Tambourine and Tiger Trap in the late '90s. Along with current bands like Times New Viking, Vivian Girls take their cues from their predecessors and cover their melodies in fuzzy gunk.
The Velvet Underground’s first album ranks among the most plagiarized of all time: Its strident melodies, dark subject matter and cloaks of reverb have crept into songs by Patti Smith, Television and Sonic Youth. The fact that those three called New York home is also no coincidence since Gotham continues to inspire crisp, anxious, lo-fi rock ensembles, each unabashedly paying homage to the Velvets. Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls are most conspicuously the product of their claimed influences: the Wipers, Nirvana and the Shangri-Las.
Just weeks after Mauled By Tigers dropped the original LP-only release of this, the Vivian Girls self-titled debut, the record was trading for near triple-digit sums as collector dweebs scoured every last nook and cranny for a copy they could flip on some dumb chump. Obviously, the inevitable backlash wasn’t too far behind, and the grumbling that this Brooklyn three-piece, with only a two-song single to their name, was somehow undeserving of the press, praise and inflated market value began to pick up. The strange thing about all this is that the hype, valuation and subsequent rebukes of that status couldn’t have happened to a more unassuming bunch.
If Vivian Girls' debut sounds familiar, it's because the holy trinity of echo, reverb, and jangle is experiencing a resurgence. The Girls' saving grace here is brevity, much like their forefathers the Ramones. The NYC trio's debut, reissued last year on garage rock stable In the Red, is under 30 minutes, so it's easier to focus on the thrilling, three-part harmonies of "Tell the World"; the lilting, almost surf-rock-roll of "Such a Joke"; and the thick drum 'n' bass thump of "Where Do You Run To?" Most of the album reads like a lovesick diary, if you can decipher singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone's lyrics, but the girl groups of the 1960s were all about one thing: the sound.