The Vivids // 888 EP
Pure Devotion Records
Recommended Track: CHOOSE YR OWN!
“If I have to hear one more middle class beach city kid’s non-distinctive caterwauling about pizza, skateboarding, beer, chix, “punk” or the city he lives in–trying to eek its way through static-y non-descript guitar–I’m gonna commit myself to a couple of drive bys.”
This passage from The Vivids’ Sim Jackson still ripples through the Internet two years after its initial post. His phrase, used to condemn both this very publication, and Sim Jackson himself, as assholes, is itself a Red Herring. Sim’s comment scoffs at an imaginary, deluded ad hominem. And as you would know, an Ad Hominem argument is eternally disregarded. Worse yet, the Red Herring (another fallacious argument) is when an argument attacks something that is off topic, or as is the case here, doesn’t even exist per se. Sim refers to a group of non-specific, middle class people doing something he’s loosely qualified to do i.e. caterwauling about specific things i.e. pizza, skateboards, beer. It’s right in your face, people. There’s nothing here. Better yet, this passage comes from a POSITIVE REVIEW OF AN ACTUAL BAND!!!
And yet you pull your undies in a wedgie over such matters and label Lo-Pie and Sim as haters. You turn to Tumblr and Facebook to encourage people not to listen to the critics…
Oh no, I’m becoming a real Tabitha Stevens. And yes, I awarded Sim’s latest effort, the 888 EP, zero pies. But not because it lacks artistry, integrity, catchiness, genius or execution. It’s literally because the brand you’re engaging with deals with pies. And pies should only be eaten when completely baked. I’d never ask you to eat raw meatloaf. And I’d only ask you to eat your shoe if it proved a point.
In this case, the Vivids aka Sim Jackson (guitar, vox, bass, drum programming), aka infamous Lo-Pie hater, has released 8 tracks that could be properly surmised as snarling, urgent, uncontrolled lo-fi sketches flipping between myriad, distinct influences: Devo, The Wipers, The Feelies, The Durutti Column, Orange Juice, and we could go on.
This is an EP of ingredients, not recipes. Songs come and songs go. Parts come and then they go. Sometimes a verse repeats, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes guitars just drop out. Sometimes ten tracks of conversation argue in stereo. Then a great guitar riff appears out of nowhere. The tape is inherently confrontational. Songs strike you suddenly. It’s like you’re a French colonist dealing with Algerians in the Casbah. Something bursts. Then it fades into anonymity. Everything is collapsed. This record is a pile of rubble. This record is not delicious.
Example: the guitar-driven coda from “Ways and Means” reminds you of an instrumental passage from Crazy Rhythms, a sound I’m personally fond of, the sound of legit “indie rock” (not the indie of today’s hybrid/electric car commercial). Yet, something’s missing; the backbone, the energy that made that older thing that thing. This EP sounds tinny, like each track is an empty wrapper and the candy’s nowhere to be found. There’s no raw power, and even amidst the yelling, there’s nothing that conveys, “I am here and you need to hear me.” That ingenious ego-trip rock possesses in amorphous, protean qualities. All of that undefinable essence, that “I’m gonna turn this up, fuck everything else” force, is gone. Perhaps this mood, this absence, was intentional. Great. However, it makes the record itself hard to recommend to the Internet. The Internet wants Now. This EP took me 8 listens to finally enjoy.
The genius here, though, is that this EP feels like an amazing reflection of what we as individuals are ACTUALLY experiencing RIGHT NOW. That feeling of always changing the hat we’re wearing, the role we’re playing. The way that this constant transition leaves us spent, exhausted, impotent, at the mercy of ubiquitous forces beyond our control. But, given that, can we reward a record that doesn’t fight to improve the less savory aspects of existence?
Yet, look at me. I’m the mean critic. Aren’t you wondering what went wrong? Why do I need big words? Why do I need to classify stuff? Why can’t a pretty song just be a pretty song? Why can’t a pretty flower just be a pretty flower? The thing is, we can’t let the petal call itself a flower. The 888 EP is a scattering of beautiful petals, yes, let me clarify — THERE ARE SO MANY COOL PARTS ON THIS EP — but there’s no pistil, and no stamen, and no harmony between masculine and feminine parts. No relationship between the different components. That relationship, and the creator’s intuitive understanding of it, that’s what makes music so damn good. Here, there’s no sexual energy in this unclassifiable assemblage of rock subgenre influence. Yes, I love the shape of the Vivids’ allegorical petals, but the petals alone don’t produce sumptuous aromas. And a scattering of stems don’t produce more beautiful flowers.
However, if you’ve read this far, and didn’t just hurry to your phone or computer to tweet something like the following:
OMG LO-PIE GAVE THE VIVIDS 0 PIES. SIM DESERVES IT. HE’S A DICK. AND HE SUCKZ AT SKATEBOARDING.
then excellent. YOU should check out the 888 EP. It’s a quick listen. It’s loud. It’s bizarre. It’s intriguing… not in any way reiterating the familiar aspects of L.A.’s garage rock and psych scene. The coolest, strangest thing about this seemingly unfinished EP is the sheer quantity of things it reminds you of. Sim sounds like a guy you want to invite to a record club.
Traces of anarcho punk on the opening track. Fugazi-ish bass lines in the second track “No Urgency”. Minimalist vocal hook on “Ways and Means”, plus that Orange Juice bass riff. Wow! And the song “Einstein Beauty”—IT SOUNDS LIKE DEVO WTF—and then it skirts around all pop songwriting conventions and finds itself in this gorgeous hook. No other way to describe it. It’s beautiful without a trace of saccharine sentimentality. It happens. And then like that, it’s gone.
Here’s the thing: All the parts of this EP are high quality. It’s like someone laid out the finest flour and freshest strawberries and then prepared the dough, flattened it, laid it in the pie tin, poured in the filling, and then… You know what? Who cares? Opinions are opinions. They don’t matter.
If you’re in a shit mood, pretend that The Vivids’ 888 EP earned 5 pies. This is an art record. It’s not meant to be consumed the way that we consume a majority of music. It’s not meant to be heard over our mindless computer lives. It’s not meant to dampen the doldrums of waiting tables. It’s not going to help a trucker pass time while trekking consumer packaged goods across inclement stretches of our continent. The 888 EP is meant to be examined, looked at critically. I believe this EP could have fought harder to engage the critic. But that’s my opinion, and mine alone. I could on for days about the final song being a cover of Aktyon, a Russian art rock band. And how they sound like Durutti Column. Who had a record named after a poster made by a group of French philosophers who called themselves the Situationists. And how this philosophy can be found in the work of Alejandro Inurrita in Birdman, a film I alluded to earlier in this piece. And how this EP is Situationist, it is not the soundtrack to the Spectacle. And then I could–
But now’s not the time. If you’re still reading, give The Vivids’ new EP a complete listen. Then a second. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then switch media, put headphones on, or vice versa. Then try it inside a car. Then talk about music with your friends. Form a clique. Make up a story about where music came from. Try and figure out why a guy would publish a book with a sandpaper cover, and later shoot himself in the chest with a shotgun. Make up why the members of Joy Division would surprise their Factory Record labelmates and convince Tony to release a Durutti Column record with a sandpaper sleeve. These labelmates, again, having a name alluding to the Situationists. Do a Google search and find out the sandpaper author I refer to was none other than Guy Debord, who wrote about the Spectacle. The idea that permeates work in critical cinema happening today…
If you see where I’m going; there is so much information, so many threads. But this EP is not a pretty bow. This EP is a work of art that wants to untie the bows and show you what’s underneath our world’s pretty packaging. If you’re up for that experience, this is your jam. If you want something quick and cool to share with your friends, you should pass on the 888 EP.