Review: Viet Cong Make Like the Last Post-Punks on Self-Titled Debut
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Label: Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye
While waiting for “Death,” the 11-minute reckoning that closes their first album, consider that out of the ashes of Women have risen something bigger called Viet Cong, a krautrock/garage/psych/noise/post-punk amalgam that basically operates under its own ecosystem. Following a demo cassette they released quietly last year, Viet Cong’s self-titled introductory LP feeds off itself and builds out ideas to create the first truly non-derivative piece in the drone-rock genre since maybe Deerhunter’s Cryptograms. The igneous rhythm section — laid down by former Women members Matt Flegel (bass) and Mike Wallace (drums) — unfold the noise of their previous band and add guitarists Daniel Christiansen (of Sharp Ends) and Scott Munro (Lab Coast) in an attempt to create the alpha and omega Canadian post-punk supergroup.
Maybe it’s the confluence of all those different voices here that makes the seven-song set feel like it’s already their seventh album: The thought and vision tucked into these constructions are inexhaustibly fun to listen to and unpack. Distorting and sewing sounds together, they meld the old synths of Eno into some down-stroked Interpol or unrestrained 13th Floor Elevators. Viet Cong starts at one fine point, but by the end it’s an industrial network of voices, triggers, and moods. There’s always a place to hook your ears: the sparse “Newspaper Spoons,” with what sounds like someone banging the last tympani on earth; the fast triplet guitar work in the middle of “Bunker Buster”; the factory of rhythms working in opposition on “Pointless Experience.”
It’s that musical ambition that makes Viet Cong such an audacious statement in under 40 minutes. Not only do they have an ear for what passes for a pop melody in their netherworld (those “ooh-ahhs” on “Silhouette”), but they have the confidence to quirk out this early on. See: the first-person collective on “March of Progress,” which is like a lost piece of Sgt. Pepper’s camp with the gall to ask, “What is the difference between love and hate?” The Calgary four-piece are refreshingly far from the kind of ennui that requires one to wear Ray Bans indoors.
Then comes “Death,” the opus that will consume the dirge-punk horizon for the foreseeable future, the one that could get Michael Gira loosen his bolo tie for a second. A clinic in multipartite song structure and soundtracking an apocalypse, the behemoth holds a new listener’s interest for over ten minutes. With its ambitious, desolate scope, maybe Viet Cong tried to write the last post-punk album — and it would be okay if that turned out to be the case.