Viet Cong is a nihilistic masterpiece. If you’re not down with staring into the infinite void with your pathetic human eyes, you may not like this album so much. With that said, and with song titles such as “Death” and “Pointless Experience,” you may expect to hear heavily distorted guitars turned up to 11 and guttural screaming. Not so.
Instead you’ll hear some of the prettiest morsels of indie guitar rock this year; but make no mistake: this is a confrontational, challenging album. That’s to be expected though, as this is the band formed by key members of the Calgary, Canada band, Women, known for pretty much the same thing: challenging yet beautiful post-punk.
Viet Cong’s pretty parts sparkle so much, in part, because of the droning, harsh sounds that predominate the album. For example, the album opener, “Newspaper Spoons,” begins with several bars of thundering, distorted drums, which is then accompanied by squalls of guitar feedback, before giving way to a pleasant, clean outro melody.
The excellent rhythm section anchors this band. Songs seamlessly slip in and out of odd time signatures without feeling abrasive or contrived, with inventive drum patterns and unexpected bass lines. The guitars are at their best when they are picking out rapid arpeggios of weird, dissonant chords.
Perhaps the best example of this dynamic is the track “March of Progress,” which begins again with an even longer drum intro before settling into a slow riff and chorus. This segues into a bassline drone, and - with a snare hit - launches into the stratosphere on a wave of euphoric, jangly guitars.
Getting back to the nihilism though: these lyrics are pretty dark, likely prompted by relfecting upon the unexpected, unexplained death of Women guitarist, Chris Reimer, in his sleep. You might not know that though, as the lines are delivered in a low, mostly unintelligible way. But fear not! They're sprightly and there is a lyrics booklet so you can mumble-sing along with the ennui! Here are some of my “favorite” lines:
- If we’re lucky we’ll get old and die.
- When all is said and done / You’ll be around until you’re gone
- There’s no connection left in your head / Another book of things to forget / An
overwhelming sense of regret / Relay, reply, react, and reset
- Slowly, slowly fall through the snow so softly / Carry me where we're going / Nowhere at all, we're going / Nowhere to go
- The skyline folding in / Nothing is beginning / Edges falling off of themselves / And the water is draining / Off the continental shelf
Happy New Year...I guess?
Check out Viet Cong today!
** Viet Cong received a lot of backlash for the band name and have announced they will soon be changing it
Check out the band members' earlier work with Women, as well.