Friday, April 22, 2011

VIVIAN GIRLS "Share The Joy"

Anyone remember ‘difficult third album’ syndrome? These days you are more likely to encounter difficult first album syndrome as groups struggle to live up to the hype and expectations that can smother them from the get-go. However Brooklyn’s garage trio Vivian Girls have not only survived the (new) media frenzy around their debut and two changes of drummer but also made it to that difficult album number three with the release this month of "Share The Joy".

The second Vivian Girls album was released just 11 months after the full release of their self-titled debut, although actually recorded 18 months apart. This plus the brevity of their songs gave the impression of a band in a rush. So now the full 18 months from ‘Everything Goes Wrong’ to the release of ‘Share The Joy’ feels almost leisurely. Opening song ‘The Other Girls’ starts with a reassuringly familiar and pacy garage racket but quickly eases back into a slower more meditative pace. It seems Vivian Girls are looking for leisureliness elsewhere too. This curious anthem of alienated independence stretches to six minutes and has a spacey, almost psychedelic feel to its lyrical repetitions (“I don’t want to be like the other girls / I don’t want to see like the other girls / I don’t want to try like the other girls / I just want to spend my time inside my mind”) and its extended guitar soloing and astral harmonies that fill the final minutes. The threesome - guitarist and vocalist Cassie Ramone, bassist Kickball Katy and new drummer Fiona Campbell – are clearly not allowing themselves to pegged down as exponents of sub-two minute garage-thrash.

As if to confirm this Cassie Ramone said on Twitter as the album was launched: “Just an FYI: Vivian Girls was never influenced by C-86, K or Slumberland. We were influenced by The Wipers, Dead Moon and 60s girl groups”. Indie-pop pedantry aside this is quite illuminating. And the latter of those influences is apparent on the spoken word intro to ‘Take It As It Comes’. with its Mary Weiss imparting of wisdom - just with added reverb (“Should I call Johnny? What else to do alone on a Saturday night? Well let me tell you one rule I always live by..."). The melodramatic and morbid ‘Death’ (“I want to stay alive...ten years from now, I want to be his bride”) continues The Shangri-Las homage but with buzzing lo-fi guitars. In a post riot-grrl garage-rock world the vulnerability and dependency in these songs is surprising but displays a deep appreciation of the complex and intense emotions in the epic pop miniatures of the girl group era.

Elsewhere Vivian Girls are more muscular and feisty: the rapid and rattling (despite a quietly jangle false start) ‘Trying To Pretend’ or the midnight outlaw blues of ‘Sixteen Ways’. The final song ‘Light In Your Eyes’ alternates pulsing bass and shuffling rhythms with more energised ramshackle noisiness but with easy-going balmy harmonies throughout. Again this song clocks in at over six minutes - nearly a third of the length of their debut album.

“Share The Joy” has an amiable confidence underneath its shifting moods and styles. It is a record still firmly in the DIY aesthetic but it is clear that Vivian Girls aren’t simply going to re-tread their debut every new outing. Sweet, spiky and spacious, this is the sound of a group that has not just passed that difficult third album stage deftly but is settling in for the long-term. I look forward to difficult album number six (but let’s keep those songs reined it at a six minute maximum please. Anything longer would just be too prog-rock).

Vivian Girls Share The Joy [BUY]

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