The Velvet Underground’s first album ranks among the most plagiarized of all time: Its strident melodies, dark subject matter and cloaks of reverb have crept into songs by Patti Smith, Television and Sonic Youth. The fact that those three called New York home is also no coincidence since Gotham continues to inspire crisp, anxious, lo-fi rock ensembles, each unabashedly paying homage to the Velvets. Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls are most conspicuously the product of their claimed influences: the Wipers, Nirvana and the Shangri-Las. More appropriate, though, the jangling guitars and charmingly off-key vocals traipsing through the female trio’s self-titled debut would’ve fit perfectly between post-punk titans like the Raincoats and Delta 5 on a Rough Trade compilation. And like their English ancestors, the Girls deal almost exclusively in exuberance and wonderment, making found squalls and rattles sound like their own. But that might have more to do with the copious amounts of reverb echoing through the album’s best songs (the ponderous “Where Do You Run To,” the punky “Never See Me Again”). They would noisily fall apart were it not for a steady beat.
For Crystal Stilts, another Brooklyn-based, Velvets-inspired band, it’s the very opposite. Every song on debut Alight Of Night seems to be falling apart, mostly because vocalist Brad Hargett’s melodies are off the map. His incoherent baritone bubbles up over walls of murk so tall they would make Phil Spector frown. To his advantage, Hargett often sounds more dangerous than deranged, as on “Graveyard Orbit,” which would be a serene surf ditty were it not for his space-case moans. The band weaves riffs that rumble hypnotically, keeping Hargett’s buffoonery in line. After all, that’s what made Nico sound so good. [www.intheredrecords.com; www.slumberlandrecords.com]