THE GOOD REVIEW Vivian Girls – Share The Joy (Polyvinyl)
by Scott Creney
Give the Vivian Girls credit. They may keep making the same-sounding album, but goddamn they keep getting better at it. In fact, the only thing Share The Joy truly has in common with its predecessors is the sound. Yes, Vivian Girls are still in love with the same garage-reverb jangle they’ve always been in love with, but listen closer and Share The Joy is such a huge leap forward that it sounds like a different band entirely.
The band sounds more aggressive, more open and confident, than before. Where they previously coasted on their harmonies and charm, this time it sounds like Vivian Girls have something to say. If the first album felt like summer, and the second one felt like fall, this album is winter — bleak, devastated, beautiful, the sound of Ophelia trapped under the ice and fighting for her life. And just like Ophelia, nobody appears to be listening.
The internet is a fickle place, in matters of love as well as matters of buzz, and sadly, it looks like Vivian Girls are on the wrong end of the public on this one. Like a kitten distracted by their latest squeaky toy, the blogosphere seems to have moved on to other girly-fuzzy-poppy bands like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls. Hell, Vivian Girls have lost their drummer to these groups — twice. You can practically hear (and literally read) people out there saying, Them again?!? But they’re so 2008.
It doesn’t help matters when the lead video is probably the most conventional VG-type song on the album.
Instead of this.
In 2008, main VG Cassie Ramone exclaimed in an interview with Spin, “Love songs are the best! I don’t know what else I’d write about.” Subjects on Share The Joy include death, murder, suicide, regret, death, the psychological violence women can inflict on each other, demons, loneliness, death, and survival. One can only assume that the album’s title is meant to be ironic. Which means that, yes, Vivian Girls have also added irony to their bag of tricks.
There are still songs about love, but even the love songs sound wiser, more ferocious, more bitter, and ultimately more hopeful. Vivian Girls have grown up. They’re not playing dumb anymore. Maybe things came too easily for the band initially and their recent setbacks have emboldened them, forced them to ask questions about their music, to find a reason to justify their existence.
There’s a danger in this album, a sense of risk, that Vivian Girls’ contemporaries have yet to imagine. They are no longer making music about music; they are making music about the universe. They are no longer using journal entries for lyrics; they are telling stories. They are no longer feeding off the past; they are charging ahead into a future.
So congratulations Vivian Girls, you’ve just made your first truly great album, an album that transcends its influences and will probably still be relevant 20 years from now. Now let’s see if anyone out there can tell the difference.
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by Scott Creney
Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. If you want to continue this conversation, try @scottcreney on twitter or ask.fm/scottcreney.