Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fountain of Everything

Vivian Girls, Everything Goes Wrong, In the Red

So often on their second record, a band will tighten things up in
order to present a more precise version of their signature sound.
To which, Brooklyn's Vivian Girls say, in essence, "Screw that!"

On Everything Goes Wrong, they crank up the volume,
quicken the pace, and color outside the lines. This full-steam-a-
head approach breeds excitement, but at the expense of finesse,
i.e. their schoolyard sing-a-long vocals are even unrulier than
before. Not that I'm complaining—not much, at any rate.

As on their self-titled debut, the trio's girl-group harmonies get
the job done, but enunciation goes out the window as if their vo-
cal chords are straining to keep up with the hands that pound
the drums, beat the bass, and strum the guitars (the drums
on "Double Visions" are so loud, in fact, I briefly thought
someone was trying to break down my door).

This isn't to suggest that the
ladies are slumping through
their sophomore release, but
rather that their latest long-
player more closely duplicat-
es the live show, where they
trade instruments, Beat Hap-
pening-style, and stretch
out their songs like taffy.

It's a solid follow-up, if less catchy than before, as if the
Raincoats decided to cover Hüsker Dü by way of the Dick-
ies, i.e. a cohesive album rather than a collection of singles.
Granted, I was expecting the latter, so I was disappointed
at first, but this CD stands up to repeat plays like a trouper.

Click here for my Amazon review of Vivian Girls, and
here to stream their Chantels cover, "He's Gone."

Hot Day at the Zoo, Zoograss - Live
the Waterhole, INTA Records

I'm talkin' about whiskey drinkin' all through the
night. If all goes right, I'm gonna find a fight.
-- HDATZ, "Blues for Jimmy"

Hot Day at the Zoo are a throwback to the itchy, country-infused days of Little Feat, Canned Heat, or even the Rolling Stones in their down-home moments (when they would pretend they were from the Deep South instead of the London suburbs).

In front of a boisterous crowd, these cats raise a ruckus with
banjo, mandolin, upright bass, and whiskey-soaked vocals. You
can probably predict what this disc sounds like, and that's okay:
HDATZ aren't reinventing the wheel, just giving it a spirited spin.

Mascara, Fountain of Tears, Mr. Fibuli's Records

Singer/guitarist Chris Mascara and compatriots Matt Graber
and Bo Barringer lay down some driving rock on their second
full-length. If Fountain of Tears isn't strictly indie, prog, or
metal, it resides somewhere in the margins between those gen-
res, though they manage to recall Firehose on title track "Ai-
nadamar," a tribute to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

A veteran of Rock Band and the Blue Man Group, Mascara comes
on like a theatrically trained performer—think The Rocky Horror
Show's Riff Raff—which lends the album a '70s feel, i.e. Meatloaf,
Alice Cooper, etc., for which I have a high tolerance, though I
could do without the fright-night theatrics of "High School," on
which Mascara moans and groans through lines like, "The shit
I pulled out of my rectum/was red, was red, was red..." Ack.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Endnote: For more information about the Vivian Girls,

please click here. You can also catch them at Seattle's High
Dive on 2/13. For more on Hot Day at the Zoo, go here;
for Mascara, here. Henry Darger painting of the original
Vivians from Shake Your Fist; band pic from ShowClix.

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