Review Summary: Well, what do we expect? A welcomed infirmity
In recent memory, no album has humbled me as much as Viet Cong’s self-titled full length debut. To elaborate, a couple weeks ago I stumbled across a discussion where the topic was ‘concept versus execution’ in music, and I realized my opinion often relies on an album’s conceptual worth; furthermore, digesting Viet Cong
became more daunting with each listen, as its execution overshadowed any concept I could derive. The record doesn't stay with me
once concluded, or make me reevaluate my own life through introspective lyrics. The album is enjoyable as the sum of its parts, as the Calgary-based act utilizes elements that, put on paper, shouldn’t work as well as they do
. Combining post-punk/art punk/noise rock hasn’t been so gripping since This Heat, and Viet Cong manage to sound quaintly familiar, yet unlike any other. There are no throwaways to speak of, and Viet Cong
is relentless throughout. Given their harsh beginnings, the tone of the album is peculiar. Their parent band, Women, ended on unsavoury terms in 2010 and guitarist Chris Reimer passed away in 2012; however, Viet Cong don't resemble a band born of tragedy and discord, despite occasionally alluding to Reimer's death in the subject matter. Rather, they are resilient, assertive, and awfully catchy, deftly balancing instrumentation, hooks, and experimentation bookend-to-bookend. Whether it’s the impending pulse of “Newspaper Spoons” or the infectious danceability of “Silhouettes”, everything is seamless.
For the past several weeks I have lived and breathed Viet Cong
, through no fault of my own - it’s quite addictive. As a listener heavily reliant on personal connections, I depend on ‘eureka’ moments where the fog lifts and I see the album in broad daylight, tying it to my own experiences. Viet Cong
doesn’t do this for me. Despite the ammo readily available, they don’t embrace vulnerability as means to leave a lasting imprint. Though lacking the overarching dismal tone I habitually gravitate towards, every track deserves inclusion, as the album is neither repetitious nor stale, yet the sounds are unified - God bless the production team. The martial drumming in “Newspaper Spoons” differs from that of “March of Progress”, but still carries a commanding presence. Vocals teeter between This Heat-influenced off-kilter harmonies (again, “March of Progress”) to a gasping frenzy in “Death”, the mountainous closing track - the pacing constantly changes, as does the energy level, but it never fails to inspire awe. That being said, it would be dishonest to describe Viet Cong
as a pathfinding masterwork; bands in the forward-thinking vein of Pere Ubu set the bar decades ago, though Viet Cong
is important in its own right. My prediction: it will become the new flagship for post-punk-revival-that-doesn’t-suck, to put it delicately. And, perhaps more importantly, I predict that when my physical copy makes its way into my stereo, I’ll wear it out abusively.
I don’t do that anymore, really. Between every other facet of life, my music listening prioritizes around absorbing a new album, then moving on to another. I simply don’t make enough time to overplay an album until it loses relevancy, only to revisit it years later and feel the resurgence of joy. Viet Cong
is an album I’m wholeheartedly willing to devote time to and, thirty-some-odd listens later, I still feel anticipation and an eagerness to explore every nook and cranny. On a critical level that might not count for much, but on a personal level it’s pretty damn special. Whether it’s the beautifully discordant guitar work, or the way vocalist Matt Flegel occasionally hides just below the surface only to emerge triumphant, Viet Cong
boasts nearly-infinite replayability. Just as I’ve hit repeat to the point of nausea, the rhythm of closer “Death” slows with fatigue only for Viet Cong to grab me by the scruff of the neck and haul me back onto the dance floor. Maybe I’m being held hostage, so to speak, and trapped in a one-sided relationship that will surely be the end of me. Maybe this is Stockholm syndrome, though if it was I wouldn’t actually know. Oh well. *Repeat*