Canada - Full Moon 226 - 02/04/15
According to their label Jagjaguwar, it takes '... less than sixty seconds of album opener "Newspaper Spoons" for you to decide that Viet Cong
is a winter record. The album has barely begun, and the guitar doesn't snarl until the end of that opening minute, but it still presents a palpable iciness in just a few short moments. It's
bitter. It stings. But once you're in it, and you're bracing yourself and charging ahead, "Newspaper Spoons" moves from a punishing, almost militarized drumbeat to a melody that's still menacing
but also delicate, almost celestial.'
Calgary based quartet Women dissolved in 2010/2011 after having released two acclaimed albums, Women (Flemish Eye Records, 2008) and Public Strain (Jagjaguwar, 2010). In 2012,
Women's guitarist Christopher Reimer died. Later that year, Matt Flegel (bass and vocals) and Michael Wallace (drums) went on to form Viet Cong along with Scott Munro (guitar and synth) and
Daniel Christiansen (guitar). Flegel and Munro played together in Chad VanGaalen's backing band (while they have played with Christiansen in a Black Sabbath tribute band). They went on to
start their flight, swerving through icy cold and harshly metallic patterns blended with warming glow and a heating inner power. Sometimes it's being almost scary and creepy-sounding, semi-apocalyptic
music from the intersection between post-punk, new wave and post-rock. A modern dance for sure. They've said to sound a bit like Joy Division (if we're going back in time), as well as somewhere
near Interpol (from later years). Making music, which has been described as 'labyrinthine post-punk'. They can sound like the angry love child of Joy Division and Wire. At other times their
parents seem to be Echo & the Bunnymen and Thin White Rope. The latter can be heard in the monumental "Continental Shelf" (the first single from Viet Cong), which was put out as a
teaser track back in October. It is for sure one of the true standout tracks on the album.
Musically they seem to flirt with a number of more or less gothic and/or dramatic sounding post-punk acts from the early 1980s. Such as Bauhaus (they covered Bauhaus' "Dark Entries" on
their debut release Cassette EP, on the Mexican Summer label last summer) [it was in fact released on cassette tape format - sold on tour only], The Virgin Prunes, Killing Joke, Sisters of Mercy
and others. "Silhouettes", the second single off their debut album, comes right out of the (semi-gothic) new wave bag. They also continue a natural line from where Women was at,
even though Women were less bleak and gloomy and more sample-whimsical at times. "Newspaper Spoons" sets the tone from its kick-off. However, the funny thing with Viet Cong is that they can
change rather rapidly inside their songs. Going from ice to fire within seconds. They sound harsh and semi-brutal in one verse, and when a chorus, a bridge, or the next verse appear they have
this mildly warming and highly appealing melody lines popping in. They can be both permafrost-poppy as well as ice-drony sounding within the same song. Such as in "March of Progress", which
is another track making me think of Wire (well, actually several songs do that to me - "Bunker Buster" is another example) with the vocal twang and the temper of guitars, as well as their
rhythmical arrangements. Again, Jagjaguwar states the facts: 'That instinct for humanizing a stone-cold song is Viet Cong's greatest gift and sharpest
weapon. It's harsh, but exhilarating.' Sometimes death is not the end, but here it actually is, with "Death" being the final track. Yet, there is more to come. Life out of what
at first seems/sounds like being stone cold dead. I am really looking forward to see them perform live (a week and a half from now).
'You can designate records as seasonal, and you can feel Viet Cong's bleakness and declare it wintry. But the only way you get a frost is when
there's something warmer to freeze up. So yes, Viet Cong is a winter album, but only until it is a spring record, then a summer scorcher, then an autumn burner, then it ices over again. They
build these buildings, and they're built to break.' (Jagjaguwar). Freeze-flame on, throughout the year and onwards. Put "Continental Shelf" on repeat and enjoy.
Copyright © 2015 H. Victor Charlie Oppøyen