The thunder ’n drum corps of Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace try to play the loudness game in opening Viet Cong. Bands frequently employ this trick: make the opening track unlistenable and heavy, and mellow out for the rest of the disc. ‘Newspaper Spoons’, with its dystopian lyrics of a submissive society, is a brilliant album opener simply out of shock value. The song’s harmony is atonal, and despite only bearing no chord-change, it seems to plod along of elephantine will. Shock also comes at the end of the song, when serene strings overwhelm the rhythm. After the critically acclaimed group Women dissolved, Flegel and Wallace, the band’s rhythm section, began Viet Cong, a more hypnotic, experimental take on post-punk rock.
Being so new, the band seems divided on how to approach their music. Some tracks are mystical conjurings of noise and drums, like musical camouflage. The band shows a great deal of prowess for writing real tunes as well, and they shine through the album’s mid-section on ‘March of Progress’ and ‘Continental Shelf’.
Joy Division comparisons will be made. Viet Cong makes Joy Division look like The Ramones, though. Viet Cong are less concerned with their own narcissistic mopey-ness, and more with the implications of living in a comfortable, metropolitan society slowly sliding into oblivion. Lovely stuff.
Well, the board of old men who invented the atomic bomb has just moved their doomsday’s clock to three minutes to midnight. The only conclusion I draw from that is the blissfully ignorant majority driving Earth to extinction will probably never listen to this depressing, noisy, distorted album. Viet Cong will never make money off this, and the band members will probably never be happy. It’s worth asking, considering the infinitesimal nature of such music these days, what’s the point? Just like Sleater-Kinney last week, Viet Cong have defied punk’s boring, conservative facade with an album that is jarring and near-flawless.
The best way to experience Viet Cong is in a gray, empty room with a wooden floor and a high ceiling, all the way through, with a single speaker at the other end, so the guerrilla shadows of sound bore through the walls long after the album has ended.