After being besieged by sixties & seventies revivals, now fifties garage-rock is coming back, starting with Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut. The number of acts drawing inspiration from the guitar rock, psychedelic rock, neo-Beach Boys, and more out of the sixties and seventies has been overwhelming recently (as opposed to modern groups, who draw from the eighties…). But last year Brooklyn played birthplace to a few young groups who looked back even farther, to the fuzzy, lo-fi garage rock of the fifties. And the first to come out with a record is Vivian Girls, an all-female trio who add that decade’s girl-group stylings for good measure on Vivian Girls.
Girls’ tracks are roughly divided in half, between girl-group choral pieces, and those where singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone’s vox stands mostly alone, and, in general, it is the latter ones which reach the highest, starting with the opener, “All the Time”. This should-have-been (and maybe-will-be?) single is the best example of the band’s retro revival of garage rock and girl-group harmonies, under lo-fi fuzz. First single “Wild Eyes” isn’t as strong as “Time”, but still works, while penultimate “Never See Me Again” is a short (under two minutes) & sweet girl-group catch. Unfortunately, a few of these pieces see Ramone’s vocals lost under the fuzz as they try to be ominous, leaving “Such a Joke” and “Going Insane” a bit forgettable.
Vivian Girls kept up their inability to pick singles when they chose “Tell the World” as their choral single, as it combines the over-fuzzed nature of the weakest Ramone-led numbers with a poor choral vox. Much stronger is the following “Where Do You Run To”, along with finisher “I Believe in Nothing”. “Damaged”, however, is only middling, while the following “No” is too simplistic (but, at only a minute-twenty, has some short sweetness).
Along with caUSE co-MOTION! (QRO photos) and sister act Crystal Stilts (QRO photos) – Vivian drummer Frankie Rose recently left to permanently play with Stilts – Vivian Girls are part of a remarkable and surprising Brooklyn retro garage-rock revival. Many of the songs on Vivian Girls certainly could use some more polish, and more to separate each track (and the band could make better picks for singles), but their sound is definitely refreshing these days (except maybe to young people in Brooklyn, for which this might all be so five minutes ago…).