Vivian Girls: 26 August 2009 - Philadelphia

[16 September 2009]

By Daniel Irving Kober

Vivian Girls are just a really damn cool band surfing on waves of hype. Playing live, they stick to what they do best—performing their batch of ‘60s girl-group, punk, and mid-to-late decade Brooklyn influenced songs reverentially—but they do it with a Stakhanovite work-ethic of sorts rarely seen in lesser bands who are fettered by musical doltishness. Not only that, but the Vivian Girls are unflurried by the pressure of being under the microscope of critics who are seemingly eager to bash them for their lo-fi militancy and lack of testosterone. While guys like Nathan Williams are trying to conquer 2009 by creating an army of “No Hope Kids”, the Vivian girls are less focused on being a part of the cultural zeitgeist than they are on playing good shows. Still, a bit of negativity always makes things interesting. Everything Goes Wrong is the band’s easy-to-write-because-it-is-easy-to-be-negative sophomore album.

The second night of the Nightmare of Sound Tour went down at Philadelphia’s hip Fishtown music spot, The Barbary. It was an ephemeral squeeze. Opening band The Beets had nothing to do with the fictional band from the classic Nickelodeon television show Doug. This disclosure will probably thwack away much of their potential Generation Y fan-base, although I hear they are quite good. Still, they did not show up…literally. This visibly angered the Vivian Girls, who started things up extra early and charged through a solid albeit brief set. The set list, from what I can recall, was a mix of tracks from the upcoming Everything Goes Wrong and the self-titled debut. The new track “Death” sounded particularly ear pleasing with Cassie Ramone vocalizing ruminations about mortality in a feigned state of anomie like a de-sexed, less-demented, version of Vines front-man Craig Nicholls. If I said I was not smitten, I would be lying.  Cassie Ramone played through the set having somehow injured her finger. This girl has bulldog skin. I say that metaphorically, but I mean it as a compliment. She’s tough. 

Kickball Katy’s overjoyed tambourine playing delighted throughout the set, as did the Vivian Girls’ new adventures in the world of acoustic guitars.  Ali Koehler is not quite the equivalent of a Juggernaut on drums, but she inflects enough exertion into her playing to make the Cadbury Gorilla jealous. Overall, I like this band’s musical imbibe on record, but I like it even better live. The chugging straight up monster song “Tell the World” was a real stand out, especially with those bubble-machines belching prismatic bubbles all over the place.     

I recently came across Cassie Ramone’s Friendster profile through Google, and it happens that it is private to people other than her friends. Maybe I’ll have to sign up for a Friendster account. Maybe Cassie Ramone will accept my friend request, although I doubt Cassie Ramone will check her Friendster account often during this upcoming tour.

I hope Cassie likes the mix-CD I gave her after the show. Track eighteen, Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream,” although now almost a year old, is still inspiring in summer 2009. Osborne’s “16 Stage,” also a 2008 standout track, makes me want to dance around in my Pink Floyd boxer shorts.  When is someone going to make Vivian Girls boxer shorts?

To all those aboard the Vivian Girls’ caravan: keep working on those side projects and e-networking with like-minded bands like Times New Viking and stick to that “just write good songs” ethos. Maybe someday, even though Cassie may oppose the idea, go find a good producer like Butch Vig who can help you make your own Siamese Dream. You’re on my list of rockers who maybe can fill that void in my life for crunchy, well-produced singles like the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” from 1993 or all those great Garbage singles. I’m not telling you to sell out. I’m just looking for kick-ass tracks that appeal to angst-y pubescent boys and thirteen year-old girls like my little cousin Shrimpie—or perhaps the wonks of the world as well.  Not many bands make those songs any more. Shit-gaze is only shit as long as you want it to be shit. Let’s make song-craft a singles-writing game again. And hang out sometime. Can you do a show at my Alma Mater?

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/111587-vivian-girls-26-august-2009-philadelphia-pa/