Punk quartet VIAL has recently released their sophomore album LOUDMOUTH via Get Better Records. On LOUDMOUTH, the Minneapolis band shows a new versatility in both style and sound: while they often play homage to riot grrrl forebears like Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile, many songs on LOUDMOUTH find the quartet leaning into surf-punk riffs, calling to mind The Regrettes or Beach Bunny, or at other times, dipping into honeysweet territory.
Kicking off the album is “Ego Death,” self-described as “circus punk.” It’s a fitting description: the song is built on a waltzing circus march, bringing to mind images of colorful big top tents. VIAL addresses the song to a “liar, liar, gaslighter” and calls to listeners to come to “the best show in town.” “Ego Death” works as an introduction to what VIAL has in store on the rest of the record: Songs of being in control and becoming the ringmaster of your own narrative.
It should be noted that the riot grrrl aspect of VIAL is in sound only. Per VIAL, they are “not a girl band.” Along with queerness, nonbinary identity is central to who VIAL is. Their music is riot grrrl for the 21st century, for those of us on Twitter and TikTok, for those of us who don’t just want to reject sexism in the music industry, but to reject gender roles en masse.
Some songs are soft and sweet, whether it’s in decibels, the lyrical message, or both. “Violet,” for example, is an anthem of queer desire: “Do you like girls or should I give up?” “Something More,” as well, is a surfy song of longing, and “Thumbs” reveals VIAL at their gentlest.
Mostly, though, LOUDMOUTH is fast, angry, and chaotic. “Planet Drool” takes aim at an exclusive music scene, beginning with a pattycake-like clap and chant (“You’re not punk, you’re not queer/ Nobody even wants you here”) before delving into shouts and screams. “Piss Punk,” as well, directly calls out sexism: “Do the things that you never thought that/ Any fucking woman could do/ I will take control of my reactions/ So I am not a product of you.” “Roadkill” takes the murder ballad and flips it punk.
All, however, show the growth from VIAL’s 2019 debut Grow Up to LOUDMOUTH. Their sound becomes cohesive in its range and clear in the tighter drums and guitars. VIAL is at their best when they set up a dichotomy, like on “Vodka Lemonade.” The song is fun, bubbly and beachy, but the words dig into insecurities and anxieties. “Maybe it's because when I'm at parties/ All I can think about is what time I can go back home,” sings the quartet.
And that’s what you can expect from VIAL: heavy doses of reality packed into short punches of ecstatic punk anthems. Listen below.