Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Revenge of the Girl Group

More great Vivian Girls at Brooklyn Bowl shots from Marvic Paulos.


I caught Vivian Girls at Brooklyn Bowl's most recent Local X Local night. Either all that wood on the bowling lanes makes for extraordinary acoustics, or the Vivs just keep getting better. It was a treat, not only because I hadn't heard any of the songs off Everything Goes Wrong yet, but also because I am entirely certain they were playing unrecorded songs from the album they are working on now.

The attenuated melody of  one several-minutes-long number put me into a reverie, the full transcript of which goes something like this: Vivian Girls are not merely influenced by the girl groups of the 1960s, Vivian Girls are the apotheosis of those groups. The Supremes and The Shangri-Las reigned gloriously in their time and are remembered today as early and often-powerful female voices in pop culture. But Vivian Girls effected a kind of spectral radio wave seance where those sounds were summoned up and given a chance to come back and say a few things they didn't get the chance to say the first time around at a volume that would not have made it onto the radio back then. As I was thinking these things it suddenly made extra sense that Vivian Girls take its name from an epic tale of a child slave rebellion led by (oddly androgynous) little girls. I had the feeling of a magic circle closing.

I mention these irrational musings to express how eager I am to hear the next Vivian Girls album. But in the clear light of day, I realize it's important to mention that many of the original girl group singers like
Diana Ross, Ronnie Spector and Mary Weiss are alive and well and contributing their own musical codas to the girl group era. But sounds can get trapped in their time and left to languish on the oldies station. That's why music which re-imagines a discarded style and its meaning can be so much more than retro.

I was also super stoked on German Measles, who opened the night. They were like a deeply low-key version of The Undertones. And the singer appeared to be drinking a porter. (Bad Idea Potluck assigns bonus points for that kind of thing.) I want that EP they have out on Captured Tracks.

By the way, the girl's room at Brooklyn Bowl is a creepy panopticon. I could watch people bowling from my bathroom stall and there's a kind of observation deck in the lounge.

But getting back to Vivian Girls, Kickball Katy has a side project called All Saints Day. Check out their song "It'll Come Around" at Gorilla Vs. Bear.

1 comment:

7inchatlanta said...

Fuck yeah. I think of Vivian Girls as the culmination of all the right bands that came before them, from girl groups and The Beach Boys to the bands that came out of the golden age of independent music (Black Tamborine, Nirvana, etc.). They are not as good as some of those bands, but like the best that came before them they take their influences and combine them into a new sound that is the perfect mix of beauty and aggression.