It has to be said that the Brudenell Social Club isn’t my most favourite venue and yet some great names have played here over recent years. Being in the heart of Headingley is one of the reasons why it works so well, Headingley being the studentville of Leeds and providing a ready supply of student types to fill the venue. I have been trying to catch up with the Vivian Girls for some time and at last I have the chance to see them in the flesh. I am not a massive fan of shoegazer indie types of groups,but these girls remind me of a great band from the mid 80s and a John Peel favourite called the Shop Assistants. Both bands sit between the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Chesterfields, and the Mighty Lemon Drops, but can The Vivian Girls live up to my expectations?

The Brudenell stage has no exit door to the rear so the band has to come from a side door that is close to the stage. With this in mind it’s quite easy for the audience to walk onto the stage if they really want to but no one does. Tonight, however, as the group gets ready tuning up, plugging in and tweaking with the sound, someone who we thought was with them starts to make random noises about the band and the club. It slowly dawns on the audience that he has nothing to do with the band as they ask "You know this guy?" At this point he just slopes off the stage to the heckles and jeers of the audience. So much for his career as a compere!

After ten minutes or so the band are ready to kick off and they do so with the minimum of fuss. Almost by accident they fall in to rhythm with one another. There is no definite start, no intro, no build-up, just a lacklustre collection of notes that make an excuse of a start. Their first song, ‘Walk Alone at Night’, is followed by‘Survival’, ‘ I Have No Fun’ and ‘Can’t Get Over You’, all of which come on top of one another. After a few more songs they do an a cappella song that they manage to hold together but only just. Not one of the three girls, Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy and Ali Koehler have great voices, but they manage to end the song without too many bum notes.

While I like some of the records, and ‘Wild Eyes’ ‘Tell the World’ and ‘Where Do You Run To?’ are all worth listening to, after 40 minutes of hearing fuzzy, distorted tunes you start to get a bit bored with the repetitive nature of the songs. The only thing that truly varies them is the tempo at which they are played at. The girls themselves don’t help by not being very animated. When singer Cassie hasn’t any vocals in a part of a song, she get her head down and rocks along with it, which is fine but her stance and position is always the same. It’s not just the size of the stage, but their lack of experience and confidence that confines them. Bass player Kickball Kathy is guilty of the same thing, but I am less forgiving of her as she only has backing vocals to perform. If they could get more balls and make the songs meaty, they would sound all the better for it, but then again would they be a shoegazer band?

Despite all this, I admire their DIY attitude towards their music and the lack of trickery involved in any of the songs. They spend more time on harmonies, which is never going to be an easy thing to do. Their two albums, 2008's ‘The Vivian Girls’ and last year's‘Everything Goes Wrong’ come across as very similar, but they have some great singles on them and in a nightclub these come across as being great songs. During live sets, it, however, becomes somewhat boring to hear or what appears to be just three or four different songs but what is in reality something like twenty songs. When they play live they need to expand their sound and to make their songs punchier. They need also to try something new to keep up the interest of the audience and that remark will also apply to their next album.











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Commenting On: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 22/1/2010 - Vivian Girls








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