From the first sound of the rhythmic drum beat that eventually cascades into the shimmering sounds of a synth on opener “Newspaper Spoons”, it became immediately evident that Viet Cong‘s self-titled, debut album was something different yet something very special and personal. The concise first track is an introduction to the world of Viet Cong, one that is filled with remorse and pain at the beginning but also possibility in the end. These feelings are further captured in the next two tracks – “Pointless Experience”, a mid-tempo thumper about life and death that has frontman Matt Flegal uttering the words, “If we’re lucky we’ll get old and die”, and “March of Progress”, which begins with a stuttering, melancholic feeling before transitioning to ’70s, Joy Division-esque tizzy of melody and subtle yet rapturous riffs.
These peaks-and-valley feelings resonate throughout the album, mirroring the recent experiences of the young Calgary-based quartet. For Matt Flegal (bass, vocals) and Mike Wallace (drums), they experienced the messy divorce of post-punk band Women, and shortly there after the death of Chris Reimer, that band’s guitarist. The album also reflects their shared experiences with Scott Munroe (guitar, synth) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar), as they traveled across Canada from gig to gig and on the fly mastering their sound and style. And those long days in the car together and playing small bars have resulted in an album that can be simply described as scintillating and brilliant.
Whereas “Newspaper Spoons”, “Pointless Experience”, and “March of Progress” are a wave of emotions and sounds, the final four tracks take the listener on a different experience – one to the very edge. “Bunker Buster” is a melodic track that fills the air with a catchy hook overtop Flegal’s mechanical voice. It’s a cross between the experimental rock of Montreal’s Suuns and Ought and the post-punk of Eagulls. “Continental Shelf” blares with distorted guitars and a post-punk feel before transitioning to a softer, rock melody and back to its post-punk origins. The track is a wonderful display of melody and rhythm shifts and a memorable track.
“Silhouettes” is the anthemic song on the seven-track album. For over four minutes, the listener is taken on a ride that is blistering and exciting. The droning voice of Flegal and the fast-paced rock sound recalls Joy Division as well as Interpol at their height. The album’s closer, “Death”, is an 11-minute masterpiece that whirls from post-punk to indie rock to experimental rock. The track encapsulates the myriad of feelings and experiences heard in the album and that of the band’s past.
While 2015 is only three weeks old, Viet Cong joins a bevy of great albums that have already been released this year. It is a brilliant album, one that is mind blowing from start to finish, and one that will continue to spun in these parts.
Viet Cong are Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar, synth), and Daniel Christiansen (guitar). Pick up their self-titled debut at Flemish Eye, Jagjaguwar, iTunes, and Amazon.
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