Viet Cong

Viet Cong

Written by: TL on 08/03/2015 18:59:38

Over the last two years, the term 'post-punk' has grown increasingly as a buzzword in the global music scene, casting a number of previously obscure bands into the centre of considerable hype. Whether those bands' songwriting was deserving of the attention or not has varied wildly, as have opinions on the matter, but with the 'punk' label itself increasingly being used to characterise music that's less experimental and more simplistic, direct and message-driven, the parent term theoretically figures to benefit from the contrast of a more reactionary counter-movement. It's no surprise then, that no two of the popular "post-punk revival" bands have sounded all that similar so far. Instead bands like iceage and Savages have had in common that they emanated a strong desire to stand apart - To dress, perform and play in ways that didn't fit into any of the supposedly constraining categories that most casual music listeners simply consider helpful in navigating the genre landscape.

Enter Viet Cong, a quartet from Canada formed in 2012, whose self-titled debut record from January has already been scooped up as a story to run with in various corner of the internet, spreading the band's name wide enough that bands that have struggled for longer will likely look on with a bit of jealousy. However, even after approaching the band with a healthy spoonful of scepticism, it turns out that the Canadians are not entirely undeserving of the attention.

"Viet Cong" starts its seven tracks with thundering doomsday drums and a layered, robotic mantra on "Newspaper Spoons", leading into feedback before giving way to a tranquil, chiming melody - the whole ordeal feeling most of all like an atmospheric intro despite it's three minutes of length. With "Pointless Existence" the atmosphere plays home to something more like a conventional song however, as the baritone vocals provide a chanting narrative while a sequence of bass patterns and fuzzy guitar chords progressively join the fray. "If we're lucky, we'll get old and die" drones bassist Matt Flegel, echoing against the obligatory cavernous reverb with a firm charisma at the edge of his voice, sounding like David Bowie could've been an influence in his way of singing.

With "March Of Progress", the band throws notions of conventional song structure out the window, opting instead for a three-part piece which, where the first three minutes consist of pummeling drums and oppressive ambiance, before a tribal beat and sitar-like scales provides background to more robotic vocal melodies. At six minutes in length, the piece gradually 'progresses' towards an upbeat, exhilarating ending where you get the feeling that the soundscape has evolved from a primordial soup, through a primitive middle age, to a busy, breath-stealing future, and the expansive nature of the track feels like something you wouldn't put it past a group like Trail Of Dead to come up with. "Bunker Buster" should be highlighted for contrasting the angular riffs in its beginning with some peculiar, yet pleasant harmonic qualities across its middle, gradually making its way in jam-like fashion to a climax which feature a shoot-out of guitar-riffs. "Silhouettes" also makes a solid impact with a fast beat and riffs that sound like something out of Bloc Party's "Helicopter", and the cascading organ notes in the back of its mid-section only further facilitate the feeling of Brit-rock-ishness.

Of the remaining tracks, "Continental Shelf" makes perhaps the smallest impressions of the shorter songs on the record, with a lone, poppy guitar hook fending for itself amidst a war between sparkling tremolo work and buzzsaw like bass parts. And then there's "Death", which comes in just as you're thinking to yourself that it's smart of Viet Cong to not overstay their welcome considering their somewhat consuming listening experience, and boom, lay's an eleven minute sequence of loosely connected ideas on the listener to cap off the record. There's room to forgive the band even if the track is arguably a bit incoherent and excessive, because at this point the band has pulled off a lively 36 minutes of listening that strike the intended, fiercely individualistic pose, but without asking too much of the listener compared to what it can deliver.

"Viet Cong" is a post-punk record, and as such it will appear to most listeners as noisy, unpredictable and lethargic to listen to, but within those parameters it is very musically playful, and it establishes a nice balance between the noisy and the harmonious while not being too cool to reach out for the listener with something that could be called hooks. It probably won't hit you right in "the feels", but for those who like their punk to be rebellious in both message and sound, it's a richer and more elaborate listen than a lot of what's been hyped under the post-punk banner in recent times.


Download: Pointless Experience, Bunker Buster, Silhouettes
For The Fans Of: Savages, iceage, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Release date 20.01.2015
Jagjaguwar / Flemish Eye

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