Album Reviews

The Virgins – The Virgins

(Atlantic) UK release date: 20 April 2009

The Virgins - The Virgins Everything about The Virgins screams scuzzy garage-rock. Their scuffy, leather-clad look, their name, their brazen and effortless Manhattan cool – it all portends the cheap thrill of lo-fi, quick-fire, dirty rock ‘n’ roll.

So upon being touched – for the very first time – by The Virgins, the unveiling of a pop aesthetic so refined and unashamed that it makes Franz Ferdinand sound like The Mars Volta is a disorienting shock. So pristine and perfectly formed is The Virgins’ debut that it sounds ready to take over the world.

Cynics will get ratty that a guitar-led three-piece from Manhattan have deliberately made a highly-polished pop album, but woe betide any accusations of ‘selling-out’. Going for a total pop approach to their record was a conscious decision, and flicked an ironic V sign at those who had already pigeon-holed The Virgins as the next scuzz-rock monster to surface from New York’s prolific underground scene.

On production duty is hit power-pop production duo S*A*M & Sluggo who buff The Virgins’ debut to an 80s pop sheen brighter than any glitter ball. And why not indulge in a little studio wizardry? When you’ve written a bunch of perfect pop songs they may as well get the glitzy production treatment. The resulting marriage is perfect. The album plays like a production line of FM-friendly hits-in-waiting, each crisp disco hi-hat perfectly positioned, each jangly guitar riff perfectly executed.

Recent single Teen Lovers is an early highlight, and sounds like Neon Neon behind the bike-sheds with Talking Heads, but it doesn’t take many listens for the entire album to reveal itself as one (nearly) flawless highlight. The whole damn thing is so hook laden that The Virgins are an unforgettable listen, with soaring melodies anchored by the funkiest fret-hopping basslines since Blood Sugar Sex Magic.

The seething pop energy of She’s Expensive, One Week Of Danger, Teen Lovers, and Private Affair; the knowing, lazy swagger of Rich Girls; the addictive dovetailing sordid guitar melodies of Hey Hey Girl; the bouncey, plodding unravelling of Fernando Pando – it’s all bloody brilliant, and it will damn well have you excited enough to assume a powerful desire to de-virginise The Virgins.

Donald Cummings is charismatic throughout, and through his slightly wayward melodies and evocative/provocative lyrics evidences a band that are having a bloody good time, his awkwardness in navigating the pop star role in The Virgins’ pop fairytale is compelling.

Their only flaw is Murder – which is the only time The Virgins sound like they’ve struggled for ideas. There doesn’t really seem to be any point to it, it doesn’t go anywhere. But it detracts nothing from an album that is overpoweringly good. That such assured pop masterpieces have come from a debut album is a little bit bewildering, and totally inspiring.

While the voyeuristic eyes of the music world have been watching Brooklyn checking out how cool it looks in the mirror, the glitzy streets of Manhattan have spewed up a band to teach those rascals across the river a thing or two about writing a pop song. Hugely accessible, thoroughly danceable, and thoroughly awesome. There is no more worthy a contender to soundtrack the summer, and for festival crowds to whip themselves into a frenzy for.

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The Virgins – The Virgins