22 Jan 2015

Viet Cong / Viet Cong (album review)

Viet Cong - 'Viet Cong'

Viet Cong are made up of members of Canadian noise band Women, who, 2 albums into their short career were torn apart by band tensions and then the tragic, untimely death of their guitarist Chris Reimer. Although Women might be unfamiliar to a load of people reading this, they were incredibly well acclaimed, with their haunting and ambient brand of alternative rock - and they're definitely worth checking out, but this review is focusing on the gem of a record that has just come been released, the self-titled debut by the band Viet Cong, whose members include Matthew Flegel (bass/vocals) and Mike Wallace, (drummer) both formally of Women.

Given their history with previous bands, it'd be safe to assume that Viet Cong is quite a downbeat album. And, well, you'd probably be right. In fact, it's aptly summarised by the fact that the last song is called Death. And it's 11 minutes long.

But because these Canadians have been dealt a drab hand by life, that doesn't necessarily mean that their album is going to be a whiny 37 minute long self-indulgent moan. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Although it certainly features a lot of dissonant songs with a definite Joy Division/Martin Hannett influence, and none of the songs are by any means cheery, it certainly has a lot of life to it. And in places, the dissonance is overwhelmed by the addition of some luscious harmonising synths. These make the record sound absolutely beautiful at times, like on the opening track Newspaper Spoons, which kind of sounds like an imperial march, overcome by beautiful Grandaddy-esque synthesisers.

However, the highlight of this album is undoubtedly the sprawling 11-minute Death, which isn't actually that downbeat. Well, it's apocalyptic, very apocalyptic, but in places it sounds almost shimmery. As well as that, Flegel's voice sounds like Peter Murphy, and it goes through moments of sounding bleak, to caustic, to just downright savage. It mixes a motorik krautrock influence with a lot of post-punk, begging the question of just what the music press in 1981 would do if New Order's Movement ended with an 11 minute long song called Death, or if the first Foo Fighters LP had something similar. Death might also be the fastest on the record, picking up and slowing down - and in fact, it might be the most accessible - but overall it's a fantastic, easy listen that verges on being exceptionally melodic at times.

Elsewhere on the seven-song-long LP, Viet Cong sound just as haunting as their predecessors Women. March of Progress is very on edge, with what is possibly a synth making sounds that resemble breathing in and out, and a furious but haunting drum performance from Wallace. Bunker Buster has echoes of NEU! and PiL alike, and Silhouettes again channels Joy Div, who are a pretty foolproof influences if you ask me.

Viet Cong have overcome the tragedy which has engulfed them to produce what is a very accomplished post-punk album. The make up of the songs is very interesting, and complete, and whilst there is a bit of drone incorporated, it's a relatively accessible album which poises Viet Cong to go onto great things.

Out: Now, on jagjaguwar 
Producer: Graham Walsh
Buy it: here