Viet Cong

Viet Cong

Jagjaguwar, 2015

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Lo-fi noise rock, of the type that Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine used to make, has the power to envelop the listener, to take them on a journey that shuts out the world around them. Canada’s Viet Cong has learned from the best on their eponymous debut, using the approach of those bands but adding electronics and a modern sheen to create a strong record that is easy to get lost in.

Certainly, students of the ‘80s underground will hear their favorite bands in “Bunker Buster” and “Continental Shelf,” the abrasive yet somehow welcoming noise-rock center of the disc. “Silhouettes” mines a distance occupied by Joy Division with Interpol-inspired vocals and some squiggly keyboards; it’s probably the most derivative of a bygone era, but it stills packs a punch. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

More original is “Newspaper Spoons,” which distorts the hell out of the drums underneath tandem post-punk vocals and nothing else until an overdriven buzzsaw guitar screams in after a minute. When it gets a little too harsh, the song abruptly fades into a lovely, ephemeral keyboard solo. There is hope in the pain after all, it seems.

Granted, the drone can sometimes be hard to sit through without good melodies to carry the day, as on “Pointless Experience” (an unfortunate title for a song) and the first half of “March Of Progress,” but sometimes an assault on the senses is necessary. The record is the first from bassist/singer Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace after the implosion of their band Women, which ended when guitarist Chris Reimer died at age 26 three years ago. After taking time to heal, the two recruited guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen for the new project, and much of the music deals with the pain, numbness and eventual hope of moving forward.

Nowhere is this concept more evident than the 11-minute closer “Death,” which fuses all of the above emotional and musical concepts into a heady epic that steamrolls anything you had previously been feeling. The jangly guitars that start the track eventually give way to an extended, repetitive jam before the vocals come back in, eventually ending with slashing chords, Flegel’s shouts and a catharsis only possible through music. You can almost feel the exorcism through the speakers.

Viet Cong is not an easy listen, but it rightfully takes its place as a modern lo-fi noise rock classic that hits most of the right notes, somewhere under the squall. Rarely does dark disconnect sound so appealing, especially on a snowy January day.

Rating: B

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