Vivian Girls, Best Coast & TacocaT at the High Dive, Seattle | 13 February 2010
It feels like every time I click a link three’s a new lo-fi girl group that I’m smitten with. It all started back in 2008 with the Vivian Girls and their reverb-laden harmonies that brought back memories of the Shop Assistants and Black Tambourine. The Dum Dum Girls soon followed and grabbed everyone’s attention last year with their version of Phil Spector girl group who has a thing for the Jesus and Mary Chain. Just to prove that things move pretty fast these days, Best Coast appeared late last year firing off three quality 7 inch records that are good enough to almost make you forget about Vivans and Dum Dums.
What makes Best Coast so good? There are the songs themselves with their aching hallucinogenic quality that seem to conjure sun bleached images of days gone by, but it’s Bethany Cosentino’s voice that carries it all home. She uses reverb like everybody else these days, but she doesn’t need it. Borrowing Vivian Girls drummer Ali Koehler Best Coast hit all the high points, and there are quite a few, of their four singles, they also played a few new songs from their upcoming album. One of them was called Crazy, or some variation, and as Cosentino repeated the chorus, I couldn’t help but think of Patsy Cline. Not because it sounded country or had twinkling piano in it, but because Cosentino’s voice sounded so good, transcending the lo-fi aesthetic that she’s chosen to drape the songs in for the time being. Cosentino’s foil in Best Coast is Bobb Bruno who plays a baritone guitar which they thought was stolen the night before in Vancouver, but later found after the gig. The band seemed quite bummed out by the loss of Bruno’s guitar and apologized more than once for not being able to deliver the full Best Coast sound. Bruno tried to replicate on his riff’s on a borrowed bass guitar form Katie of the Vivian Girls, doing his best Peter Hook imitation. He mostly persevered, but sometimes had to resort to playing tambourine. It really didn’t matter, Cosentino’s voice and songs were more than worthy of taking center stage and no apology was necessary.
After Best Coast, the Vivian Girls had their work cut out for them. The two bands are cut from the same cloth, but where Best Coast’s melodies prevail, the Vivian Girls bury theirs beneath heavy bass and guitar. Sometimes I don’t even think that there is a melody to be buried. That wasn’t always the case. I think their first album could be considered a classic, but the set they played focused mostly on their newer material which is a bit more difficult. A lot of the songs seemed to blend into one another, with Katie’s bass dominating everything. We got a break from the drone when they put down their instruments and did their a capella cover of the Chantals‘ He’s Gone. It was a break, but not a very good one, especially when you compare it to the original. The set wasn’t a total bust, Lakehouse, Can’t Get Over You and Tell The World stood out, but it wasn’t their best. I worry that the band are struggling to come up with songs that match the magic of their debut and by focusing on their newer material it made that fact all the more painfully obvious.
mp3: Vivian Girls – He’s Gone (B-side to their upcoming 7″ on Wild World)
mp3 swiped from gvsb
TacaocaT started the night off with their updated, more humorous version of riot grrrl, sprinkled with a little bit of Young Fresh Fellows. They played some new songs as well as old favorites Leotard, Dry Land Is a Myth (the Kevin Costner song), Volcano and Basement, an ode to their ‘condo’. Great fun even if they didn’t play Peeps, which Katie from Vivian Girls kept shouting for. If you haven’t heard their album Shame Spiral, do yourself a favor and get on over to their label Don’t Stop Believin’ and order yourself up a copy.