If Loveless is the sound of a band dragging their instruments through water, Girl, Buried is a band dragging their instruments through thick mud. Nodding to the psychological thriller starring Winona Ryder, Michigan-based Big Vic’s debut album is just as unsettled and anxiety-provoking as Girl, Interrupted, the film that gives the album its title. Tempos unexpectedly fluctuate, songwriter Victoria Rinaldi’s voice goes from a riot grrrl banshee yell to a shy, moody whisper, and the guitars either scream with panic or glumly traipse through the icy streets of the band’s native Ann Arbor. These extremes are clearly where Big Vic finds their comfort zone, but between them is where they find their magic—when dissonance and rage marry melodious contemplation.
The band’s style leans on the loud-quiet contrast à la Nirvana or Pixies, who both feature on Rinaldi’s “girl, buried inspo” Spotify playlist and the latter of which she draws on for the “Where Is My Mind?” tribute “Kerrytown”. But more than the sum of their influences, Big Vic carve out a small home between grunge, emo, and shoegaze in which to lay their fatigued heads. And they do sound exhausted but will themselves to carry on nonetheless. After all, there’s great fun to be had in making this much noise.
Stand-out track “Salt” is emblematic of this sonic sweet spot. The verse’s spacey guitars evoke a ponderous drive along a snowy highway. Meanwhile, a yearning, Jawbreaker-esque chorus turns the fuzz up full blast as Rinaldi cries, “Don’t take me back / Don’t want to go / Don’t want to feel”, decrying a relationship or a place, perhaps both. The lyrics aren’t revelatory, but they are just vague and melancholic enough to tap into some kind of late-teen emo reliability. That’s not to imply that the song calls for anything more grandiose. Most of the time, the vocals are drowned into obscurity by a fog of tortured guitar feedback and clanging cymbals. And even when she does yowl, her bandmates—Geoff Brown (guitar), Ines Hidalgo (bass), and Joe Fortino (drums)—do, too.
The album opener “Dinky” is another highlight. Rinaldi compares herself to a “lost little boy / With nothing but his toy.” “Can somebody help him? / Can somebody help me?” she mutters in an unenthused monotone in between instrumental breaks. Her guitar is her toy—it keeps her company, but that doesn’t dampen the anxiety of the music, of feeling lost and confused. On the nostalgic, hazy “Broken Car”, the track that most qualifies for the shoegaze stamp, the guitars are little more than a wisp of smoke, out of focus and intangible.
It’s easy to lean on the Loveless comparison, for anything labeled ‘shoegaze‘ and released after 1991 will in some way be compared if not indebted to My Bloody Valentine‘s masterstroke. Big Vic seems to embrace, even anticipate, the comparison. The cover swaps a Fender Jazzmaster with a picture of a band friend smashing up a bench at one of their shows, but it’s still put through the same distorted pink filter. Once again, the band has taken their influences but twisted them, just as Rinaldi isn’t doing her best Bilinda Butcher impression.
Instead, her vocals are more acidulous, and her lyrics aren’t about sex—rather, she wants to see the entrails of men who won’t keep to themselves: “Can I walk without being eyed? / Eyes, all the time”, she laments on “Gun Girl”, one of the most boisterous tracks. The album’s most left-of-center moment is here: a deranged saxophone enters and ostensibly tries to perform a guitar solo. The atonal honking is terrifying, perhaps mirroring the feeling of being followed through a park late at night, clutching your keys between your fingers.
Almost every track on Girl, Buried ends with either a blitz of ferocious noise or a swirly feedback loop. Endings are where the band are most uncertain. Is it best to sit with things or to blow them up? If we are all stuck between an uncertain future and a painful past, then Big Vic are going to have a lot of fun in between, weaving together their influences into an enjoyable batch of out-of-focus yet direct alternative rock songs that never do exactly what you’d expect.