this must be the place....goin strong , yeah baby!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

incredible pt 3: re: steve b

for those of you who didn't catch it, steve b wrote this assumedly more informed opinion than my own re: "incredible..." pt 1.:

"Strange Boys, Barbaras and Oh Sees sound nothing like Vivian Girls.

One reason they're getting attention is that, while not trailblazing anything, they are playing a style of "indie/garage/punk/whatever" rock that hasn't been played in the past 10 years or so.

By that, I mean, noisy, melodic pop a la Black Tambourine, Tiger Trap, Aislers Set and you could go back earlier and say Marine Girls, Shop Assistants, etc.

I can see some of what you're saying, but you come up short on a lot of your analysis.

For one, yes they are attractive, but not in a textbook kind of way, like a pop star or what-have-you. There are LOTS of bands with goodlooking girls (you'll see this when you see Golden Triangle) and it hasn't benefited them at all.

Basically, the attention they're getting comes from these things:

1. Touring relentlessly. Look at their tour schedule. This is how the Black Lips and Jay Reatard became successful. Touring. Touring. Touring.

2. In The Red. It's been a label that major indies have scooped artists from for years. Black Lips, Jay Reatard, The Ponys, King Khan & BBQ Show.

3. The 1st press of their LP sold out in about 5 days. Obviously, this gets the ball rolling as far as internet interest.

Ok, that's it."

so I thought that was well thought out enough to repost in its entirety.....

Anyways before I continue, I'd like to further caveat my position by saying I'm not familiar with Black Tambourine, Tiger Trap, Aislers Set Marine Girls, or Shop Assistants, which should tell you something about how skin deep I'm actually in the garage thing (which matters--I'm not claiming to speak for people really into it). OK, so thats one caveat. The other caveat being that that previous blog post would have been more well thought out if I hadn't had a show to go to. So thats that.

As far as Strange Boys, Barbaras and Oh Sees sounding nothing like Vivian Girls, I agree to an extent---the previous post was intended to comment strictly about commerce and nothing about art. As far as the Vivian Girls touring relentlessly, I had no idea, and obviously that strikes at my own regional bias. I've got mad respect for all bands that tour relentlessly.

But with that out of the way, I think its worth mentioning that I'm of the opinion that what those 3 bands do is more difficult than what The Vivian Girls do. Beyond that, while I personally don't value "difficulty" in music on its own, I begin to find importance in "saying something new" from genres with a strong formal/less-experimental history. Lotta quotation marks...

I think its worth bringing up the short term (last 5 years) history of bands getting picked up off In The Red and I'm glad you did. The band The Vivian Girls actually reminded me of (again, only from video) was The Ponys. I picked up a copy of Laced With Romance and was pretty into it, especially the first 2 tracks, and though I think at this point it sounds sort of specific or I guess you could say dated, if I could do it all over I would still probably get really into those tracks again. That record all had a bunch to do with the production on it in my mind but thats a different story...the point of this is to say I'm not going to be too stuck up not to get into Vivian Girls, because I think their songwriting is legitimately good.

Anyways, yeah, I was really into it, but I saw them live and thought it was just OK. Then their second record came out, and it felt like a real lateral move to me, like, it didn't have the same singles, but at the same time, other than that it wasn't really worse, just them doing a different sound. I just couldn't figure out exactly why. Like, I could see the connection from the first record to the second, but it was the sort of record that left me hoping the 3rd record would be somewhere in the middle of the first 2 and like....i don't know...I don't even want to get too into it to be honest. I managed to see them live a second time (a year later-ish), and thought the first time I saw them was better.

And I would imagine the Vivian Girls will stick a little closer to their sound for subsequent records, and again I'm not completely familiar with them, being in Austin, Texas. But the comparison to me is that the sound they are working with is a pretty simple one. I think the Black Lips are a great band and also a great band to contrast them with to try and communicate what I think the difference between creativity and non-creativity within the genre is. "Good Bad Not Evil" has as least 6 different things going on. There is the chord thing, where everything is sort of based off these basic chord shapes, E, A, G, D, and C and their minors, and these common progressions that involve these shapes. There is this stylistic country under-vibe. There is this sort of Deerhunter style psych under-vibe---I'm sure if I knew the exact guitar looper pedal I could point to it, but it definitely feels very modern to me. There is this "we sound different live than on this record" vibe (I used to have their live record which I probably loved way more than Good Bad Not Evil, although really now I'm curious to hear it again if for no other reason than just for the sake of comparison). There is a strong lyrical point of view. And on top of that they are laying some pretty funky rhythms on these chords that you really have to go through the steps before you discover. And that's really just the record, and what I can think of right now: that's not to say about what their live deal is.

But for me, when I hear the Vivian Girls there are about 2 things going on. There is this shoegazey guitar, and there is this 3 part harmony. There is also the fact that in one manner of speaking they are really great songs, but it feels very "great, where do you go from here?" for me. Maybe in a manner of speaking a good band to compare them to would be The Clean. The Clean wrote a number of songs that I think are really incredible, but that doesn't change the fact that their entire output basically has the exact same drum beat. That to me in itself should disqualify you from the upper floors of the proverbial rock and roll hall of fame.

As far as the first press of their LP selling out in 5 days, I would love to know that story.

To kind of switch gears, as far as Golden Triange is concerned, I thought they were awesome. In regards to the commerce aspect of their band, I really can't attest to it because I don't know their history well enough, but I am glad they caught this tour with Quintron and Miss Pussycat, because people will be accidentally see them, get into them, and I thought they were really great. As far as the other bands (Strange Boys, Barbaras, Oh Sees) those are all great live bands I've been fortunate enough to witness, and I feel they are all successfully extending the idiom (more than what could rightfully be called a "twist"). This is in opposition to playing a sound that, for whatever reason, just hasn't been played in 10 years.

So that's what I got on the subject for now...stoked on Steve B that he coaxed me into writing it, cause it was fun.


  1. Well put.

    But keep in mind, the Black Lips "Good Bad Not Evil" is their 4th (!!) studio album. It's a bit unfair to compare the Vivian Girls to them at this point.

    My main point was that the Vivian Girls play/write/record their niche of "garagey pop" very well.
    When I namedropped Tiger Trap, Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine (you should check these bands out!) it's a lazy way of trying to show you what I think they were going for (in contrast to Oh Sees and Barbaras, who coming from more of a modern twist on 60's Garage/Psych). As far as I can tell, no one has played girl-fronted noisy-indie-punk-pop-c86 styled stuff very well since the early 90s. This, I think, is the main contributor to their success. Not being from Brooklyn. Everyone in Brooklyn is in a band and they obviously all don't become successful.

    I doubt their goal was to become indie rock darlings, they seem to be coming from a "punk" ethos of house party shows, small labels (their 1st 2 releases were on Plays With Dolls and Mauled By Tigers. I'd never heard of either.)

    Oh Sees are fantastic, by the way, and have no doubt that they'll be pretty popular fairly soon.

  2. alright, i'm buying what your selling. thanks for writing