Vivian Girls, Vivian Girls

Alex Naidus

By Alex Naidus

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Influences sometimes look best when worn on the sleeve. Many of the most thrilling groups in pop music were so effective (and beloved) not for invention, but for synthesis — exploiting a new and perfect combination of the familiar. Jesus & Mary Chain — themselves an increasingly relevant touchstone for indie bands — hit both hearts and the charts with a wickedly loud, undeniably cool A + B: sweet girl-group stomp and piercing Velvet Underground-y fuzz. Like JAMC, the Vivian Girls draw you into their sound with a wish-I-had-thought-of-that set of reference points: echo-y Wall of Sound production, '80s indie-pop ramshackle and gleeful riot-grrl instrument-bashing. Buried underneath all the influences (and reverb) are — most importantly, of course — great pop songs.

A short blast of big, messy, perfect indie pop

After the galloping, strangled punk burst of album opener "All the Time," it's "Damaged" that truly reveals Vivian Girls 'm.o. There's the mega-simple shuffling drums n 'tambourine backbeat, the just-off sugar-sweet high harmonies and four-note guitar solo &#8212 it barely noses past two minutes and is still longer than half the other songs on the album. The songs on Vivian Girls are flimsy and fun, but also kick up a dark, fierce racket. "Tell the World," with its chugging rhythm and minor-key harmonies, is almost certainly the best lo-fi spooky punk anthem you've heard in years &#8212 probably since the heyday of seminal '90s C86-ers Black Tambourine, who bear a clear influence on the Girls. By the time the sparkling bounce of album highlight "Where Do You Run To?" starts up, it's become clear: you've heard this sound before — you've loved it, even — but somehow it's never sounded quite this exciting. A neat trick, indeed.