Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls has insane command of the guitar solo. Not the Kerry King kind, natch, but the “Cinnamon Girl” or “Out Of Step” sort that with few notes — some of them, depending on skill level, more suggestions of notes than actual — create these revelatory moments in two-part songs. At key points within the monotony of Everything Goes Wrong, Ramone’s guitar cuts through, her solo ringing like Greg Sage-plus-reverb. She may stick to four or seven staccato stabs, but they’re exactly the right ones.
At once faster and more desultory than their first record, Everything Goes Wrong boasts an even denser wall of distortion, with a guitar sound more ‘80s-punk than shoegaze or Black Tambourine or whatever. Once again, Ramone, Kickball Katy, and Ali Koehler’s vocals bury themselves deeply beneath the guitars. Koehler’s cymbals jump out harshly from one side of the mix. Riffs form from irresolute chords, not major nor minor but kind of dull and taupe. Some sound OK, others -- like the main riff of “The Desert” -- seem forced.
In a sense, that’s all there is to this album. There’s nothing particular catchy. No song stands out. And if at first listen one finds it unpleasant, there’s no need to go forth. The thick production dulls the ear, and – say what you will about how lyrics are just a patchy bit of grout in the Wall of Sound – Vivian Girls’ incessant "chance/dances" and "cry/dies" are stultifying.
But to say everything went wrong would be, well, wrong. There are moments of real intelligence that reveal themselves on repeat listens. The fuzz gradually settles and individual instances, like Cassie’s guitar solos, become captivating. It’s hard not to tap a foot along to that ceaseless ride cymbal. The way Koehler plays along to the vocal phrasings in songs like the previously maligned “The Desert” become engaging, if not irresistible. One begins to notice things like the time in the lovely “When I’m Gone” when Ramone extends the word “go-o-o-one” to match her strumming on an instrumental break, slipping unexpected emotion into the song. If you want to like Everything Goes Wrong, you probably will.