Review Summary: Check your anxieties, no need to suffer endlessly
Death is the one inevitability. That statement in itself is obvious, and not abstract at all. Canadian four piece Viet Cong
wallow in death, and in the obvious and the abstract. Jangle pop guitars fight against drone noise, fight against post punk croons, fight against martial drums; all trying to beat death.
Vocalist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace formed Viet Cong
after the collapse of their former band Women
, and the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer in 2012. Here we see the band’s apparent fascination with the subject, yet it’s not heavy handed. Viet Cong
play with death, it’s a mere fact and they choose to ride with it until the logical conclusion, where they close the album (on a track called ‘Death’), with sweat and droning instrumental crashes, and then they *** off.
’s post punk is claustrophobic and paranoid like all the greats, owing as much to the discomforting experimentation of This Heat
and Fear Of Music
’ era Talking Heads
, to the hooks of Interpol
; Flegel truly beckoning Paul Banks’ haunting voice in tracks like ‘Pointless Experience’ and ‘Silhouettes’. The experimentation leads to a dense chaotic mess of ideas, yet the band never suffocates their songs with them, leaving them free to remain accessible, energetic and almost catchy. ‘Silhouettes’ seems to have at least three hooks amongst the new wave-esque synths. Lead single ‘Continental Shelf’ lifts its rumbling and raging verses to reveal to a hypnotic, dancing chorus.
This is the light amongst the darkness that Viet Cong
choose to celebrate. Their music is indeed droning, despairing and dangerous, but they also shine, and shuffle on, accepting death as a mere thing to talk about. After an increasing crescendo of mechanical drums and static, Flegel declares “If we’re lucky we’ll get old and die” on ‘Pointless Experience’, and if we take into context the premature death of Christopher Reimer, it becomes not a nihilistic ode to misery, not even a triumphant call to live, but just a frank hope.
After ‘Death’’s lengthy, violent, exhausting conclusion, the listener is left cold. Despite the defiant energy and emotion and considerably short running time, Viet Cong
is a draining listening experience for all its abstractness and refraining from intimacy. It does overwhelm you and maybe even suffocate you, but after the fog clears you’re still around. So all you’re left with is to put it back on and live with it until the dark, empty month of January is over.