Viet Cong conjure up a disjointed Indie album that is stuck inside a foreboding Post Punk experimentalism. The four piece from Calgary, Canada, consist of two members of the short lived rock band, Women. In 2010, Women entered indefinite hiatus after the band had an on stage brawl with each other, then in 2012 the bands guitarist tragically passed away in his sleep. You get the sense of grief throughout the self-titled debut, of a band removing their bandages (note the album cover) and trying to find their footing.
‘Newspaper Spoons’ is a cold start to the album. The abrasive armageddon drumming, chanting vocals, and raucous guitar that’s straight from ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ album, accumulates into a calm and blissful arpeggiated synth. A forewarning of what is ahead on this already-stressful, dark and intense album.
Droning synths with kraut like drumming, and bass intertwined with brash electric guitars. There is a 80s glam post punk feel to Matt Flegel’s vocals. With lyrics like "If we're lucky, we'll get old and die", it’s difficult not to associate this with the early death of Christopher Reimer, a theme that features throughout the album.
‘March of Progress’ keeps with Viet Cong’s sound, erupting into long chords of layered synths and driving kick drums that keep the music’s intensity ever higher. It then turns sharply into a celestial vocal harmony atop of an apegiated guitar, which is then halted by an industrial horn before again going into a new angelic yet intense guitar wash. Definitely one of my favourite songs off their album.
‘Bunker Buster’ is full of abrupt guitar notes and unconventional chords, but it still sucks you into their melodramatic beat. Midway through the song, everything suddenly comes together into a beautiful phase of harmony, making you love their odd idea of music, then going back to their slightly arrhythmic sound. Then it stops like it never started.
Up to this point, each song has seemed to roll into each other. This gives a brief pause for thought before going into undoubtedly the stand out track and their first single off the album, ‘Continental Shelf’. Perhaps it’s because it keeps to generic musical principles. A repetitive guitar hook, panning left to right, and a more refined chorus rolls along effortlessly with singer Matt Flegel’s vocals floating atop and fitting so well. It makes for a remarkably memorable song.
‘Silhouettes’ is the most pop orientated song on the album, although that’s not necessary a bad thing. It’s racing indie guitars and catchy chorus make it the best or safest song to use if I was introducing their music to someone. It does lack the brash and provoking nature of previous songs though.
As the album goes on, its sound has been getting more refined and clear, with less distortion and disjointed features. It is as if Viet Cong have started to win the battle they have been fighting. The seventh and final track is ‘Death’ – an 11 minute epic. The driving beat, and optimistic guitar riff, go through many ending coda but finally ending with Matt Flegal yelling in a brutal final phase.
Viet Cong’s ‘Viet Cong’ will unwillingly suck you in and then chuck you out when they want to, without you even realising. The debut champions itself on pushing their dark and idiosyncratic musical ideas, which in turn makes this album into a truly fascinating and compelling listen. There is no doubt what these Canadians are trying to achieve, and they do it in a brilliant fashion. Their show on 8th February at Green Door Store should be a true spectacle where hopefully they will perform the album in its entirety, which would be amazing!