Between 2008 and 2011, the New York City trio Vivian Girls released three brilliant albums of fifth-gear punk rock energy. The snarling, reckless tracks also contained poignant melodies — a dichotomy embraced by the indie rock community.
By 2014, following a three-year absence of new music, the band called it quits. Beset by toxic blowback from embittered bloggers and critics (e.g. angry white guys), Vivian Girls seemed to be turning their back on a world that didn’t deserve them.
This year, in a move no one saw coming, the group announced plans to reform and put out a new album — the wonderfully acerbic “Memory.” For this foray, they’re ignoring all the white noise.
“Back in the day, I would read everything I could find about the band, just because I wanted to know what was out there,” says guitarist and vocalist Cassie Ramone, appearing with the group at the Chapel this week. “I realized that it was really bad for me, so a few years ago I just stopped reading all my press entirely, and my life is a lot better because of that.”
Despite the circumstances that led to their hiatus, the Vivian Girls evinced few hesitations about reuniting. A phone call between bassist Katy Goodman and Ramone confirmed a shared interest in getting back together, and before long, all three members (drummer Ali Koehler rounds out the trio) were living in Los Angeles and working on a new album.
Ramone says they immediately clicked after getting back together, and the music reflects that cohesiveness. It’s as if the past decade of various indie rock trends and flashes never happened. The group still combines the taut, barbed wire tension of Sonic Youth with the slop-poppy craftmanship of Guided By Voices.
Most of the swift-moving tunes on “Memory,” such as “Sick” and “At it Again,” would be natural fits on the band’s debut album, but the record does offer a few rewarding new wrinkles. “Sludge,” a wryly ominous track, is the heaviest entry yet into the Vivian Girls’ oeuvre, bringing a Black Sabbath intensity with some nice Dinosaur Jr. guitar freakouts, and lyrically, Ramone’s tales of depression, anxiety and unease are more candid and evocative than ever.
Ramone said she gets “zen” when writing about the lyrics and tries not to enter into songwriting mode with preconceived ideas, so it’s difficult to tell if the album is a reaction to the unfair attention the band garnered in its early days.
Either way, the group is far from embittered or angry; most of the s—- they endured seems to be a remote memory.
“The reaction so far to us coming back has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Ramone. “We are planning on keeping going, releasing music, playing more shows. We are super psyched to be a band again.”
IF YOU GO
Vivian Girls, Great Grandpa, The She’s
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Contact: (415) 551-5157, thechapelsf.com