Review Summary: holy hype?
There are 21 minutes and 27 seconds on Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut. In those 21 minutes are 10 songs about– well, I don’t know what the lyrics are. Vivian Girls
is one of those lo-fi albums of the most whimsical proportions: this is girl-fronted surfer pop named after heroines of a graphic novel, and the point seems less about caring about what they’re singing about and more about just getting there. So, yes, this is meant to be fun and no, I don’t think you’re supposed to analyze it. This is the kind of album that– before they BLEW. UP.– you could find on blogs between the new Mars Volta and Grouper.
Now, being re-released under label In The Red, Vivian Girls
is getting the full treatment, taking critical praise and following the 2008 mantra of being the Small Band meeting the Big World. I mean, didn’t you hear that the band sold out of all their first edition copies in just two weeks
? Or three, maybe four. I’m not sure. All I can really gather from this press release is that, thankfully, Vivian Girls don’t aim to break new ground but I am to take the innocence of their sound as a New Wave-influenced refreshing wet slap to the face in the wake of all their “sonic competition.” So I remember No Age and I put that on instead.
And there it is. I simply do not want to listen to Vivian Girls
. I’ve had it for nearly two weeks now, and in the time it took this all-girl trio to break it big in a overflowing “New York loft-pop” underground scene, I’ve just found the patience to construct a decent sentence to support a completely indifferent opinion. There are some pretty melodies to this noisy pop stuff, like when the chorus of “All The Time” breaks down into cymbal clashes and a chorus of coos emit from the static. The one-two shuffle in “Damaged” is the album’s sweetest pleasure, elevated by sunny vocal harmonies and a well placed electric arpeggio. “Where Do You Run To” hits gold with the refrain of its title, and “Never See Me Again” is poised to become a raucous country rocker before it shifts simply into frantic, cymbal-clashing shoegaze. All these moments hit the right spot when the mood strikes, which just isn’t enough.
The problem could very well lie in the production. Working at breakneck speed, Vivian Girls
is sloggy, hampered by the cloying feeling that the lo-fi shtick is simply too on-the-nose. All the songs sound alike as background noise (though the foreground doesn’t clear the fog), fit with an overpowering percussion, nearly indistinguishable guitar chords, under produced vocals and a bass that barely registers (except when it begins as the focus, as in the echoing chambers of “Such A Joke”). Critically, I must take this poor production into account, though my instinct tells me that that is very much the point. So, critically, I try to observe how Vivian Girls
works as fun, self-aware pop disguised as shoegaze-punk-surf. It doesn’t. Is there potential here? Sure, but when I can’t place my finger on what exactly the problem is, it’s hard to see that Bigger Picture.