“Newspaper Spoons” opens like a distant canon firing into the abyss. An overblown kick drum beats like a death knell before Matt Flegel sings “Writhing violence essentially without distortion, Wired silent, vanishing into the boredom”. It’s a hell of a way to open a debut album, but that’s just the kind of album Viet Cong is. With every turn your put through an aural wringer. Your mind is blown and your head feels like it’s going to explode. Welcome to 2015, the year of Viet Cong.
The band is one half of the former Calgary band Women. When that band broke up, bassist Matthew Flegel wanted to start a band with guitarist Scott Munro. They enlisted Women drummer Michael Wallace and guitarist Daniel Christiansen and Viet Cong was born. They released a cassette-only EP that was sold at gigs in 2012. That album showed a spry, post-punk informed band with darker tendencies. On Viet Cong they fully embrace the darkness and get down to some serious gothic tendencies. “Pointless Experience” stabs with siren-like guitars and Flegel’s heavily-reverbed vocals. It’s as if Interpol put the suits away and embraced the gutter. Lyrics sound like the prose of a post-apocalyptic survivor. Flegel sings “Failed to keep the necessary papers for evacuation, Hideously synchronized with cold and cruel arithmetic”. Viet Cong don’t do paint-by-numbers lyrics. It’s poetic and dystopian. “March Of Progress” starts out with white noise, as if looking for signs of life on an old tube television. Pretty soon distorted drums come through the fuzz like war drums as wavering synths move back and forth as if stuck in a vacuum. Vocals come in beautifully, harmonies singing “Lately there’s a wound that needs some healing soon, Before the infection can set in.” Soon enough the song kicks into an almost new wave drum beat and the guitars become chime-y and have more of a post-punk jangle.
You get the feeling through the darkness and shadowy entities that haunt this record that there’s an element of healing going on here. It’s like the aural version of prolonged exposure therapy. You keep going over the pain through each song until it loses the hurt. A song like “Bunker Buster” is all splintered guitar jabs and post-punk strut. It’s like Mission of Burma in swagger mode. Munro and Christiansen are making some of the most interesting and intriguing guitar noise that I’ve heard in a very long time. “Continental Shelf” has elements of A Place To Bury Stranger’s wall-of-guitar noise in the songs verses before becoming quite eerie and beautiful in the chorus. Lyrically it’s doomed, tragic, and oddly moving. Flegel has a knack for doomed and romantic lyrics. Dream-like, dystopian, and darkly vague. He paints dark landscapes that you can occasionally catch something dimly lit hiding amongst the shadows. “Continental Shelf” is a massive song that gives you a world to get lost in, at your own risk of course. “Silhouettes” has the dark, bass-y pulse of Luis Vasquez’ The Soft Moon with new wave synths hanging over the proceedings. It’s a hell of a track. The album closes on the epic and mammoth dirge “Death”. It’s over 11 minutes of new wave, post-punk, and dark wave haze. It feels like this cycle of mourning and healing. The vocals fade and the song turns into this churning, swirling sea of noise and madness.
Viet Cong feels vital and intense. It’s blood spurting on the canvas. It’s embracing the scars that come with the wounds of the past. Embracing the fact you survived and lived to tell about it. This album feels revolutionary. Viet Cong is pure, raw, bloody rock and roll at it’s best.