If you can still hear a buzz from New York City’s Bowery in the twenty-first century, it is surely thanks to groups like Vivian Girls. For six years, the band raced with the brilliance and speed of a comet while delivering its punchy brand of punk rock to places like Thailand, Japan and Europe, all while helping build a strong community in the clandestine basements of New York City’s grittiest bars and nightclubs. The band dissolved in 2014, and as of this past July has reunited, that bit is not surprising: why did the group reunite? The answer is clear in the band’s newly released fourth studio album, Memory.
When Cassie Ramone (guitar, lead vocals), Katy Goodman (bass, drums, vocals) and Frankie Rose (drums, bass, vocals) formed Vivian Girls in 2008, they may never have believed that the group would reach the heights that it did toward the end of that decade: sold-out records, world tours and a strong following. Perhaps as a consequence or mere coincidence, just as the madness of stardom was boiling, Rose left the group and was replaced by Ali Koehler in 2008. Ali was replaced by Fiona Campbell in 2010, and now in 2019, Ali helms the drums again. The band’s turbulent-successful history is important because Memory’s music is all about it.
The record begins in a hurry with the speedy drums of Koehler being the highlight in “Most Of All,” a track that like a dagger is short and sharp at less than 2 minutes length. Katy’s rough-and-tumble basslines are back and most-evident in tracks like “Sick” and “Lonely Girl,” with the latter being a more atmospheric track that slows the record’s furious pace for a moment. “Sludge,” the album’s seventh track, provides perhaps the best example of the band’s contrasting dynamic of semi-playful vocals against a chainsaw-like guitar sound that serrates eardrums. The band seems more comfortable at the speed of tracks like “I’m Far Away” where the noise-pop the group creates and adores becomes more apparent. As the guitars of the track screech and Ramone sings, the passion bleeds out.
The album closes out with “Waiting In The Car” a track that retains the fury established at the start of the record and mirrors the group’s turbulent trajectory. Memory is a sonic stew that is hot and ready, spiced up with New York grit and reckless abandon. From listening to the album, one can’t help but feel the reason for the band’s reunion is in the music: each track is raw and in-your-face tough—New York. The band could not stay away, the sound and scene the girls have created are in them forever, and exposing those viscera to the world is a most-natural occurrence for them.