Vivian Girls

Memory

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

The return of the Vivian Girls in 2019 seemingly came out of nowhere. Since they broke up, each member of the group had struck out on her own and forged a path free and clear of the band and their reputation. Their friendship brought them back together to record Memory, and fans of the band and their brand of spooky, hooky noise pop should be glad. The three bandmembers apply the musical growth they experienced in other projects -- Cassie Ramone in the Babies, Katy Goodman in La Sera, and Ali Koehler in Upset -- to this record, and working with producer Rob Barbato, they deliver plenty of songs that add the noise of punk to the sweetness of pop, sounding tough and more focused than ever. About half of the record is made up of songs that sound like the Angels fronting Dead Moon, their harmonies sweetly haunting and Ramone's guitar throwing off fierce sparks. There's not much of the ramshackle wandering of earlier records here though. "Waiting in the Car" hits like a sledge, "Most of All" stalks like a big cat on the prowl, and "Sick" is a headlong dash of a song with beautiful vocal harmonies in the chorus. If these kind of ripping jams were all the band did, Memory would have been a great comeback. The other half of the album adds great value and helps it become something even better. "Your Kind of Life" is a jangling, atmospheric C-86 ballad, "At It Again" sounds like a Beat Happening song played merrily through a wind tunnel, "I'm Far Away" is another tightly wound rocker that betrays the band's worship of the Wipers, and "Mistake" is a restrained and melancholy girl group indie made special by their vocal harmonies and the guitar blowouts. While those songs are all very bright and cheerful by Vivian Girl standards, they also take a left turn into grungy guitar muck on the overdriven and heavy "Sludge." They pull this off just as well as they do the lighter tunes, and it's a good marker of their growth that they can. This reunion isn't tossed off and the band doesn't fall into the nostalgia trap; they've taken the things that made them good and refined them to a sharp point. Memory isn't just their best record, it makes good on all the promise they displayed early on and will hopefully shut their critics up once and for all.

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