You can’t blame the Vivian Girls for thinking small. After the initial pressing of their debut album (500 copies on small indie label Mauled By Tigers) sold out in a few weeks, they quickly signed to the garage rock driven label In The Red to meet with the extra demand. These days it’s not an uncommon thing and many great albums were pressed in limited copies. That said, this isn’t one of them.
This Brooklyn trio are riding on some fairly impressive hype on both sides of the ocean, and whether it rises to the occasion in some ways is best left up to your own interpretation. In their own words, the Vivian Girls wanted to be a punk band in the vein of the Wipers and Nirvana and write “short, fast songs”. With this taken onboard, Vivian Girls succeeds. 10 songs in 21 minutes with typically punk rock titles as “Damaged”, “Going Insane” and “I Believe In Nothing”.
Record company sweet talk like “swirling noise topped with sweetly angelic vocals” doesn’t come to mind when the girls bolt from the stables (sans wings and halo) with the barely in tune first track “All The Time” and then discretely throw Mary Chain-like fogs of reverb and distortion over the rest of the album that obscures all but the tambourine accented beat and the vocals. “Wild Eyes” and the to-the-point “No” (just the one word repeated throughout) brings to mind the early days of shoegaze, here sounding unbelievably like Lush.
The simplicity of the songs, the thump-thump 4/4 beat, the choppy guitars and the three part harmonies that rush to meet but barely connect are endearing but only just. In the moments where the Vivian Girls afford a listener double-take like in the 60’s girl group swoon of “Where Do You Run To” allow the impression that there‘s more to the Vivian Girls than simply racing to the end of the song in as few chord changes as possible. Viewed as a whole, it sounds like a bashed out debut in the DIY spirit of punk rock. When the Vivian Girls come to record their second album, they’re likely to view this record as you would baby photos.
Ultimately, there’s nothing new on display here. Revisionists might warm to the C86/Slumberland/K sound, but the adoration seems premature at best. In fact there are probably 40 year old musicians who once sounded exactly like the Vivian Girls wondering why they never got their turn in the spotlight.