The Upshot: Set the way-back machine to the early ‘90s and pull all those Lilith Fair banners out of mothballs!
BY FRED MILLS
Vivian Cook is a young Bay Area songstress as defiantly in your face as you’re likely to encounter in this still-young year, blessed with an innate ability to lyrically provoke, and gifted with a brassy blare of a voice to ensure her message is delivered. Said message involves, typically, reconciling the shortcomings of one’s lovers and associates while rationalizing the same about oneself, and then having to process the potentially crippling dissonance that ensues. Not a recipe for happiness, in other words, and the tense tone of Cook’s words is mirrored by the gritted-teeth visage that graces the cover of her long playing debut.
Yet it’s her defiance and unwillingness to surrender, combined with her apparently unerring ability to find trouble at a moment’s notice, that makes Cook about so vividly real. Lyrics like these simply jump out and demand that the listener pay attention: “She wanders in nowhere near drunk, hands to the bar trying to get fucked up”; “I lost everything last night, yeah I’m starting to think I might’ve joined a fight”; “Oh, tell me again how you’re so insane, Do so many drugs, Are in so much pain”; “Every time I let you get down, so I can play the whore, but girl, you know you want me”; and, best of all, “Just cuz I couldn’t cum didn’t mean we didn’t have any fun.”
Cook, it must be said, is a direct descendent of such previous confrontation chanteuses as Liz Phair (a pure instinct for how to rock out), Alanis Morissette (the warbling vocal inflections), and Meredith Brooks (the potty mouth—and yeah, Cook throws in several iterations of the term “whore” here as well). With her lyrics synched to brisk, percussively punctuated arrangements that alternate between acoustic/electric guitar motifs and punchy keyboards, Cook’s R. Walt Vincent-produced debut has an immediacy that’s hard to deny—one dares to call it “radio friendly,” but it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that this lady isn’t going to remain a regional phenom for long. And if Lilith Fair ever resumes operations and wants to cast around for another young gal who has no qualms about kicking ass from here to Timbuktu, they’ve got an early entry.
The Long Shot was originally self-released by Cook in September of 2015. All credit to Omnivore, then, for sensing the potential for greatness here and putting it out in wider release.
DOWNLOAD: “Train Conversations,” “Hazy,” “Take Me to the Water”