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.
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who asked me, “why Vivian Girls
? They’re women!” and, well, you can imagine how I rose my all too indie eyebrow and responded no, Women released Public Strain
. Not that I lent that record to explain, but this outburst of geekery is the sad truth; all this fuzzy stuff got more and more diluted to the point where we forgot where Vivian Girls stood. Their last studio album surfaced just as the fuzz-revival craze well and truly hit off, and with that little teasing line kick-starting their time in 2011, it feels foolish to forget how Vivian Girls are kind of seniors in this genre. As much as one can be a senior after three years of records, right?
Even if, in all honesty, they don’t act like seniors. Nor do they seem to dislike any of the bands around them the way “The Other Girls” might imply on paper. The song is nothing but pleasant, and more so because it doesn’t have any of the biting noise we’d get with Vivian Girls
or Everything Goes Wrong
. It sounds as it should: a nice way of the trio announcing that there can be a song like “Where Do You Run To” without the stigma that surrounds it. “The Other Girls” is a relief to anyone who couldn’t quite get to grips with Vivian Girls in 2008/9 respectively, because it takes what we always knew about them- that they love girl group pop and punk, and know how to play both- but doesn’t force us to extract from the fuzz.
Share the Joy
is all about taking those albums and fleshing them out into a classic one- they can jam for three minutes in the middle of this song and keep us happily engaged in the record because it’s giving us breathing space. It’s still carried by its insistence, something the Vivian Girls have always had in their music on their first two records- that belief that they’re making whatever noisy songs they want and you can decipher the pop hooks if you must- but this time it comes from melody rather than disguise. It may have taken us our sweet time to hear how well the voices of Cassie Ramone and Katy Goodman complemented each other on “Such a Joke,” but here their interplay is instantly brilliant and something to keep. On “The Other Girls” they work together perfectly, and they always have, but now we have their voices upfront. And that’s to say nothing of that opening line in “I Heard You Say.”
Not that ditching this side of themselves does any disrespect to fellow lo-fi-beach-pop-what-have-you-punk bands, and in a way Vivian Girls do a bit of catching up on Share the Joy
. It’s great to see the trio open and bookend this record with the two longest tracks ever to grace a Vivian Girls studio album, “The Other Girls” loose and with none of the claustrophobia the trio’s lightning pace brings, and “The Light in Your Eyes” which propels the record outward in grand fashion. But through it all Vivian Girls retain what is raw in their music and reinforce that their signature sound is recognisable for more than just bedroom fidelity. These tracks are inherently Vivian Girls even within the record’s newfound structure; “Dance (If You Wanna),” so light-hearted it may well be the indie Safety Dance cover, and “Lake House,” an old live number, so brilliantly pushy with its punchy verses and Campbell’s forward-motion drumming. Vivian Girls have lost nothing of what made them pop stars of static two years ago- they haven’t lost the grunge in their guitar, they can still hand out sweet dating advice- they’ve just lost the static.
I can see a whole lot of dejected indie fans turning off “The Other Girls” before its first sixteen seconds fade away. With six minutes of this song still to come, the pocket of useless noise feels taunting- like a tongue-in-cheek response to the less tongue-in-cheek cry of “not this again!” when someone hears a band recommended in lieu of Crazy For You
or Rip It Off
. Or worse yet, it might feel like Vivian Girls are just picking up straight where they left off the rumbling ending of Everything Goes Wrong
two years ago- they sound ready to go full circle with another round of noisy pop shorts. But if you get past this wall of noise, only bothering to burden Share the Joy
for a freaky sixteen seconds, you’ll find a record contained within its little motto, the noise dropped, the joy shared tenfold, the delightful “Dance (If You Wanna)” circling our heads, encouraging us with a smile. “The Other Girls,” no, Share the Joy
is about remembering all things Vivian Girls, passionate as ever, more themselves than they’ve ever been.