Saturday, 23 May 2009

Vivian Girls, Ruby Lounge, Wednesday May 20

Amongst all Brooklyn’s current shoe gaze revivalists - Crystal Stilts and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart in particular drowning their songs in feedback and aping the scuzzy guitar sounds of the Jesus and Marychain like it’s 1986 all over again - it’s Vivian Girls who do it with the most style.

Part of Vivian Girls’ appeal, especially live, is that they look more like a girl gang having fun together - they watch support act Male Bonding from the front row with enthusiasm, dancing and offering calls of encouragement - than aloof rock band.

Vivian Girls are a punk band, in the best sense. Not because they play hard, or fast, or even particularly loud, but because they strip music down to its barest components and play like they don’t care, offering a f*** you to musical proficiency.

Songs like Second Date, woo oohing backing vocals lingering long after the song has finished, are the musical equivalent of walking along whistling, hands in pockets. Harmonies are sugar coated, 60s girl group style, but there's always a slight undercurrent of danger.

The trio play two note guitar solos, a bass that stalks the guitar and vocal lines almost obsessively and rudimentary, clack clacking drums that attempt to hold it all together.

Songs are short and judder to an abrupt halt, as if cut off mid sentence: they build to a gradual climax, say what they’ve got to say and then don’t press the point.

There's no profound message hidden in the music. Lyrics are largely indistinguishable; lead singer Cassie Ramone’s (yes, they wear their influences on the sleeve) vocals swim low in the mix as if purposefully fighting a losing battle against a current of reverb.

That’s not to say Vivian Girls aren’t exhilarating. Tell the World, a hypnotic, almost monotone chant, surges along in a tunnel of fuzz. Wild Eyes bursts towards the crowd like a tidal wave threatening to swell over the barrier that separates the band from the audience.

By the end, swapping instruments, smiling broadly and playing in the crowd, Vivian Girls resemble legendary punk girl group the Shaggs and bring to mind the best of the punk tradition.

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