Vivian Girls – Share The Joy (Polyvinyl Records)

April 19, 2011 by  

This is the third offering from the rather confusing trio that is Vivian Girls. They don’t quite go for sun-drenched melody lines a la Best Coast. They don’t push the breathy vocals and shimmering tamourine-driven percussion quite like La Sera. And there’s no point pretending they’ve got the same punchy and stylised production force as sits behind their other heavily-fringed peers, Dum Dum Girls.

Instead, on Share The Joy this band thrash from one influence to the next with a hyperactive sort of frivolity. They can move from decade to decade within the same song, recalling sixties doowop vocals sighed over nineties-inspired guitar. But then there’s that nod to the seventies garage sound that simply can’t be ignored. How to pull this together into a cohesive record? Well, here are a few bulletpoint guidelines.

First off, stop comparing them to Best Coast. Although ex-drummer Ali Koehler now plays with Bethany Costentino’s band, there’s no way Vivian Girls are guilty of imitating that sort of sound. Bitching about how ‘Dance (If You Wanna)’ misses the mark isn’t getting you anywhere.

Right, now we’ve got that settled, prepare yourself for the sort of listen that soars through its highs and crucnhes to dissapointing lows when focus is lost. Opener ‘The Other Girls’ slips from distorted guitars into a treble-heavy riff all in the first thirty seconds of the record. The unexpected length of the song, and of others on the album, comes mostly from a slightly clumsy solo but still thrashes out with a catchy hook.

It’s the interesting chord choices that really set the record apart though. Just when you feel Vivian Girls are leaning too heavily on tried-and-tested formulae for sixties pop, they throw in inversions and chord shapes to tug at the ear beautifully. You can hear their youth pour through on the tongue-in-cheek ‘Take It As It Comes’, just after a tale is told of a mother losing all her children in sixteen horrifying scenarios on ‘Sixteen Ways’.

Storytelling sits at the core of this record, even when the content clearly hasn’t been lived out by the band members. The simple harmonies, slightly husky vocals and oft-humourous lyrics make it clear Vivian Girls aren’t out to be read literally. Instead, they invite you to go along this shambolic journey of risky songwriting and the gambles it entails. Some are won, some are inevitably lost (see ‘Vanishing Of Time’) but Share The Joy still holds some promise for fans of dreamy garage pop.