Vivian Girls are less interesting as a band than as a reflection of Brooklyn’s robust DIY music scene.
More specifically, it’s a reflection of that scene’s clout: No other circuit could have elevated to national attention an act so bland.
It’s always refreshing to see women making quality rock music, even though in the age of Beth Ditto and Karen O, that might not be as revolutionary as it once seemed.
“It’s always refreshing to see women making quality rock music, even though in the age of Beth Ditto and Karen O, that might not be as revolutionary as it once seemed.”
But that’s what funny about these girls—they never seemed destined for great things.
It’s not that their music isn’t good, but that they don’t really have a lot of ambition. They never seemed meant for big sales or worldwide fame.
Their eponymous debut, released just over a year ago, was not so much revolutionary as, well, nice. Some solid tunes and some filler, and a trio of smart, if slightly boring ladies behind it.
Most of their songs sound the same—warbled three-part harmonies over three-chord strumming—and the slick production only highlights that lack of breadth.
A little variety is essential to a great album, and the Vivian Girls are so consistent they make the Ramones sound like the Talking Heads.
The question now: how long can they keep it up? And with fame, fortune, and a whole lot of hype, can the Vivian Girls challenge themselves enough to stay interesting? Will the next breeze of fashion blow them away, or can they be relevant in a musical climate that’s constantly changing?
They would benefit from a more diverse sound, tighter performances, and — above all — some songs that have hooks. There are other bands doing this same kind of thing, and doing it with better songs and a better sound.
For those of you who’ve given up on the Vivian Girls, here’s a chance to wipe the slate clean and find some all-Girls noise-pop by someone from another coast. We’ve been enjoying L.A.’s Dum Dum Girls quite a bit in these parts.
Dum Dum Girls = West coast Vivian Girls with a tighter beat, black mini-dresses & lacey tights. Total girl-crush.
For those dissenters who accused LA’s Dum Dum Girls of riding on the coat-tails of similarly suffixed gal-pals Vivian Girls, it’s time to eat your words. They unfurl a sound far more intricate and subtle than their Brooklyn rivals. ‘Blank Girl’ and ‘Jail La La’ each usurp the Vivian Girls’ dream-pop girl-group harmonies. Make no mistake: Dee Dee has the vocal chops to see off all competitors.
And yeah, these guys get compared to The Vivian Girls a lot. I’ve seen the Vivian Girls, and I jotted down in my notebook “Vivian Girl, keep trying.”
As the most charismatic member of Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, Frankie Rose was a reliable bolt of onstage electricity enlivening the often noncommittal presences around her.
Frankie Rose and the Outs have made a record that put her old band the Vivian Girls to shame, and instead of proving to be bandwagon jumpers, they instead made a record other girl pop bands can emulate and someday hope to equal.
On her second solo album, she transports us further and takes us higher than she ever could have as the drummer of an indie pop revivalist band.
Cassie Ramone’s The Babies were decent but not special, really, whereas the album Ali Koehler made last year after getting unceremoniously kicked out of Best Coast with her new band, Upset, was brilliant. It’s been the Vivian Girls bass player’s new solo project-turned-band, Kickball Katy Goodman’s La Sera, who are the ones worth watching, though.
It’s impossible to imagine Vivian Girls without “Kickball” Katy Goodman. Her high harmonies take a number of the songs from sloppily catchy to pop-friendly.
Already on album three after only a couple years, I already like them more than I ever liked the Vivian Girls.
When the Brooklyn trio broke out in 2008, it was grouped with other fashionable garage-rockers like Black Lips, Jay Reatard, and Blank Dogs. Vivian Girls was among the lesser groups in the scene, and as buzz around the band has faded over time, its sense of identity has all but eroded.
Provoking divided opinion from the off, cynicists and unbelievers took an immediate dislike to the girls on account of Cassie’s unusual, off-key vocals and the band’s rather haphazard approach to instrumentation.
Vivian Girls sound exhausted on Share The Joy. A record lacking in ideas from a band inching past its sell-by date.
The other part of the problem is that while these girls may have rode the early wave of revivalist of girl group indie rock, bands just simply doing it better are converging on their turf. Best Coast has mastered the art of the surf-pop gem; Those Darlins have cornered the market on rock ’n’ roll attitude; Dum Dum Girls’ take on indie pop has less baggage and a sharper ear.
Ultimately, the Vivian Girls don’t do much with the indie cred they’ve built up in the past few years.
To paraphrase our president: You can bathe a pig in reverb, but it’s still a pig.