Queens of the Moment
As we approach the summer of 2011, we’ve been bombarded with lo-fi, girl group-inspired beach rock for at least a couple years now. Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls are pretty much the penultimate band of this nearly-annoying genre. Share the Joy is their third and best release since their 2008 self-titled debut, but nothing exceptionally innovative or shocking is happening here.
Best Coast nearly ruined it for lots of people; last summer’s psychedelic pop drone success may have been the crest of renewed Shangri-Las reverence. At least on Share the Joy there are some longer songs, like the strong guitar-heavy opener “The Other Girls” and the closing “Light In Your Eyes.” The standout from the first half of the record is “Dance (If You Wanna),” a rollicking, bouncy effort where Vivian Girls harmonize to the best of their ability.
The thing about their vocals that’s slightly irritating is that they’re all pretty flat. Lead singer Cassie Ramone is not a virtuoso singer. Her delivery is sometimes comically deadpan, and no one will accuse her of trying too hard. The girls are also notoriously far from gifted when it comes to guitar shredding and drum pounding. It’s a topic of debate: do you need to be any good to have a successful rock band? If Vivian Girls are any indication, the answer is “not really.”
One of the songs that actually captures their sound well, and with a little tongue-in-cheek nod to the context they’re inhabiting, is the excellent “Take It as It Comes.” It starts out with silly, kitschy chit-chat between the girls before the chords crash in. They’re talking about Johnny: “What if he ends up on a date with another girl?” “You’ve gotta be strong girl.” “But he’s the only boy I want around!” It’s a clever treatment of modern romantic frustration and dynamics through that cherished ’60s surf-rock lens, yet other people—newcomer Hunx and His Punx, harder acts like Male Bonding and Japandroids—nail the oeuvre better.
As long as we’re interested in low-fi noise-pop birthed from the Beach Boys era, Vivian Girls can float around the top of the pile. Still, despite a few standouts and surprises on Share the Joy, these ten songs in 35 minutes aren’t as good as work from some of the other champions of the moment.