Consisting of Matt Flegel, Mike Wallace, and Danny Christiansen, (all formally of indie music darlings, Women), with the inclusion of Scott Monroe, Canada’s Viet Cong, rises to the challenge of listener anticipation with their first self-titled album. It’s an earnest post-punk lullaby with a little bit of sleepy “sloth goth” appeal. It isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, but Viet Cong is belligerently hypnotic, you couldn’t reach out to shut off its drum-fall through your speakers even if you tried. The songs are broad, but thematically tight, patterned, and comfortably viscous. The order of the album is also impeccable, rendering it an assembly that should be listened to, top-to-bottom, in its beautiful, darksome, entirety.
With the ominous format of 80’s goth, Viet Cong approaches each song’s assembly with militant specificity. “Riffing” or improv is certainly not an aspect of their musical manifesto. Their instruments are tight, well rehearsed, and authentic enough to appeal to fans of anything from Deerhunter to Pavement. Their employment of electronics is seamless, doing much to expand the album’s landscape (and this landscape is probably moonlit and oppressively snowy. A January release is quite fitting). Earlier, I mentioned this album should be listened to completion, but if I had to pick one track to convince a stranger of it’s excellence, I would absolutely play “Silhouettes”. The vocals are commanding, the drums fill the sound with a beat you could row a Roman galley to for hours without tiring. It made me want to buy some black lipstick and dance like a rhythm- possessed jellyfish after adding it to a Halloween playlist. Their previously released single, “Continental Shelf” is also dead serious about being danceable.
I have to dwell, for a few sentences at least, on the fact that Viet Cong has really done its synthetic elements well. In this musical world there is a lot of experimentation and innovation blooming from the untapped oceans of electronic opportunity. Despite what instrumental die-hards will claim, it becomes increasingly evident that independent music must master electronic effects in order to truly thrive. So often, however, bands fail to properly translate their experiments, to make them vital to their music. Viet Cong has not failed here, tapping into territory inhabited by the bands like Crystal Castles. Each song rises and crests with a dystopian seriousness harnessed by Viet Cong’s well-mapped synth-implants.
As far as any perceived failings on Viet Cong’s part, I’d have to say that the songwriting doesn’t exactly match the superb song arrangement or instrumentals. Honestly, it is easy to let that go, as the general thematic moodiness of the album needs no translation. In short, Viet Cong has done it for me. I looked up their 2015 tour, and they are slotted to play everywhere from Berlin to a tiny town in northern Ohio (Thankfully, because I now plan to catch them there in May). This is an album which will suit all your gloriously ominous moments in the New Year.