Review: Vivian Girls

Simon ParkinThis Brooklyn-based so-hip-it-hurts pop-punks had critics hailing them an overnight sensation. This set was made up of a mellower retro-flavoured sound that bore more than passing resemblance to the indie-punk that emerged in the late-80s/early-90s.Simon Parkin

Norwich Arts Centre

This Brooklyn-based female trio first emerged in 2008 as heavily-hyped so-hip-it-hurts pop-punks with their self-titled debut album which had critics hailing them an overnight sensation.

In the space of little over 12-months, they went from New York loft-wannabes to opening for the likes of Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo to being named on many critic's end-of-year lists.


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Their follow-up album, Everything Goes Wrong, adopted a more introspective shoegazing sound and it was this vibe that was to the fore as they headlined this latest Twee Off!

Though they retain elements of their lo-fi indie-girl thrashings, the majority of this set was made up of a mellower retro-flavoured sound that bore more than passing resemblance to the indie-punk that emerged in the late-80s/early-90s on cult label 4AD.

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While mostly made up of simple guitar-plus-bass-plus-drums parts, they packed enough hooks and harmony into the material to be more than the sum of their minimal parts.

The key is the trio's sweet harmonies that shine though the Mazzy Star moody atmospherics to recall The Shangri-Las - for whom Vivian Girls express a particular love - and Spector-era 1960s girl-pop.

Guitarist-singer Cassie Ramone's sweet and sour lead vocals were given depth and resonance by the echoes of bassist Kickball Katy and drummer Ali Koehler.

Indeed the real emotion under the surface was laid bare by a bizarre one-song tambourines-around-the-microphone a-cappella interlude that was quite beautiful, even if it stuck out from the rest of the set like a sore thumb.

Sadly that was the one moment when you felt they might really connect with the audience in a show that was otherwise an exercise in studied introspection.

Still they showed enough to suggest they'll be no flash-in-the-pan hype act.

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