On their third album, Vivian Girls stretch out a little bit and take a few risks, ultimately delivering a slightly more mature, ever-so-slightly more mellow record than their eponymous debut (Mauled By Tigers/In the Red, 2008) or its follow-up Everything Goes Wrong (In the Red, 2009). Doing so seems a smart move, since so many other bands that have come along in the past few years have drawn or branched from the Brooklyn band’s sound/style with success (Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, et al). It makes sense for the trio to keep moving on and avoid being pigeonholed.
In some ways, Share the Joy can be compared to another third album by an all-woman band from California, Talk Show (I.R.S., 1984) by The Go-Go’s, a band who had roots in the 1978 Los Angeles punk scene before smoothing out their sound and recording enduring and still-appealing hits like “Our Lips Are Sealed” (1981). Both Talk Show and Share the Joy offer more thoughtful mid-tempo material and explore more serious emotional territory, including themes of betrayal and self-doubt, than their respective predecessor LPs. Neither album, however, sacrifices the rock nor eschews catchy pop songs. Vivian Girls — who are named for the seven sister heroines who rebel against enslaving oppressors in outsider artist Henry Darger’s once-hidden, voluminous graphic novel In the Realms of the Unreal — have the advantage of support from their respected new label Polyvinyl and the opportunity to develop their own sound. On the other hand, The Go-Go’s, pressured to move “product,” were told by their producer all of their drum beats would be looped from perfectly played measures, minimizing human error in timekeeping, to the horror of drummer Gina Schock.
Moving from the 1980s to the 1990s, Share the Joy’s economical, melodic guitar riffs, simple solos, and fuzzy chord patterns and appealing vocal harmonies also recall another all-woman band, this time from London: the much-missed Lush. Vivian Girls still draw from early- and mid-1960s pop-rock, girl group, jangly indie-pop, and garage-rock styles but with a bit more individuality than previously. In other words, Vivian Girls sound more like themselves than ever before.
Share the Joy is a bit of a “grower” album in that not every single track on the record evinces the same immediate accessibility as much of the earlier material. It’s not as though hooks are absent, however, as the catchy “Sixteen Ways” and the lovely, appealing “I Heard You Say” prove. “Take It As It Comes” is in the classic girl group mode with a cute, self-aware spoken-word introduction and interludes. “Light In Your Eyes” is a wonderfully dynamic closer that builds and creates tension much like the later work of The Buzzcocks. The song is a fitting bookend to the album, balancing the other six-plus-minute tune, the opener “The Other Girls.” Six minutes is downright epochal for the Vivian Girls’ usual standards, it might be noted, suggesting their development as a band. “The Other Girls” features a longish guitar solo with a passage that sounds slightly atonal and wandering before moving on to a more melodic resolution, then into a satisfying coda with thick vocal harmonies. The moment of doubt, of skating on thin ice, that precedes the resolution makes it so much sweeter when it arrives.
Hopefully, Vivian Girls will continue to evolve and avoid the pitfalls that made Talk Show The Go-Go’s final album (barring one forgotten reunion album from 2001).Visit: Vivian Girls | Polyvinyl
Purchase: Insound | eMusic