Rising out of the ashes of the brilliant and much missed Canadian Indie rock band Women, ex-members Matt Flegle and Mike Wallice teamed up with Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen to create a new band called Viet Cong in the hopes of continuing the fantastic music that Women started. Women’s music was very lo-fi with the treble being ramped up the max on their guitars and instrumentation that was covered in reverb yet was still highly inventive and highly entertaining. They had a knack of channelling their influences of bands like ‘The Velvet Underground’ as well as Post-Punk bands like ‘Joy Division’. On paper it would seem that Viet Cong are shooting for a very similar sound to Women; they still have the same influences and sport lots of traits that were Women’s trademark, but at the same time Viet Cong’s self titled debut is a lot darker, drearier and tortured than anything Women ever put out.
Other than having the same influences to Women, Viet Cong are also bringing the same style of production values as they sound very Lo-Fi, noisy and use a lot of reverb. There are definitely spots where it feels like you’re having De Ja Vu like on the track ‘Bunker Buster’, which has some of the same guitar tones you’d expect from a Women record. Other than these smalls moments (that are easily forgiveable), the record does try to take some big steps away from it and manages to stand on its own two feet a lot of the time. For one, Viet Cong’s instrumentation runs a lot smoother with it being a lot less jagged and instead being more beefed up and coherent like on the lead single for the album ‘Continental Shift’. This song features these brilliant pounding drum rhythms that are frequently changing behind a wall of distorted guitar chords. The vocals are reasonably clean throughout and when the distortion cuts out every now and again to allow that bass-line to shine it becomes a lot more melodic and accessible than anything Women did.
Viet Cong are a band that seem hell-bent on creating songs that obsess over the way in which it’s laid out; the drums and the guitars interlock so tightly a lot of the time yet they’re just so noisy as they’re being drowned in reverb and distortion but not to the point where it ruins the songs. These compositions are complex enough that they can withstand all the reverb that they have on them – they’re used to enhance their music rather than to cover it up. Not only that but they’re trying to experiment and play around with this sound and it ultimately pays off like on the penultimate track ‘Silhouettes’. This song is absolute chaos as it has synthesisers and some extremely subtle piano keys being thrown into a mix of screeching guitars, pounding drums and walls of reverb creating moments of profound beauty that you can dig for amongst the anarchy – this is all used to create an atmosphere that’s so unbelievably tense and visceral that it won’t let you go until the end.
This tense atmosphere continues onto the most ambitious track on the album – the closing track ‘Death’. It’s an eleven minute long epic with a massive build-up that never really reaches it’s crescendo and instead flows brilliantly into the third part of the song almost as if the massive build-up was simply an intermission. It’s a song that’s sure to be absolutely stunning to hear live as their frontman Matt Flegel ‘s vocals on this track are just completely tortured and wrecked. The only time their experimentation and search for a new sound doesn’t pay off is on the first two tracks which ultimately feel a bit flimsy. They definitely feel like introductory tracks as they sound more like sound capsules rather than coherent and encapsulating songs like the rest of the music on here.
Even though Viet Cong still stand in the ashes of their former band Women and still use their same blueprints, they’re making big steps into creating their own identity. This album is only 7 tracks long and feels like an introduction to a band that will hopefully continue to make music and will begin to evolve for a lot longer than their previous band’s lifespan. This album is a tortured, fantastic slice of post-punk that’s got its own fingerprints in the modern-day world.
Best Tracks: Death, Silhouettes, Continental Shelf