Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Viet Cong - Viet Cong (2015)

It is a common misconception in rock music that the loudest band is the best band. While the ability to inspire frenzied uproars merely from the existing is built into the history of rock and roll, there has of course been a notable shift in expectation and presentation - and not just due to decline of genrification. Calgary's Women was such a band that while never really relying on deafening volumes or aggressive guitar techniques was without question a great band. Viet Cong, formed more or less from the ashes of Women after guitarist/vocalist Chris Reimer's death continues in that tradition without merely being a carbon copy.

After debuting with their "Cassette" EP, which relied heavily on the idea of genre before ultimate subverting it, Viet Cong's self-titled full length explodes that notion from its very beginning; much truer to the band's shared history. "Continental Shelf", the first single from the self-titled record, is a bit of a misdirect. Essentially the only song on the record easily accessible enough to be presented out of context - it's the catchiest track on the record by a long shot. The next catchiest of course being second single "Silhouettes" which is perhaps a better encapsulation of the brusqueness of the album. "Silhouettes" is the single that clues you in to the hidden depths of Viet Cong, whereas "Continental Shelf" serves merely to pique interest.

Viet Cong is essentially a continuation of the murky, devolution of "Cassette" ender "Select Your Drone" dialed back a hair so there's at least some room for growth. Viet Cong are sure to garner a lot of comparisons to Women and this latest record seems both to be an acknowledgement and a violet rejection of that in equal measure. It's a record that doesn't just require patient from the listener but demands it - it's expansive builds littered with abrasive textures and rugged tones. If you stick with it long enough, you're rewarded with transformation of those harsh tones into brilliant displays of guitar tones and ability. Viet Cong enact the grand build towards ruination of "Cassette" on a smaller scale and basically in reverse. "Continental Shelf" might be unlike any other song on the album but in the context of the album - as it rebuilds itself from the wreckage - of their former band, of their former album, it coalesces into the moment of melodic clarity that is "Continental Shelf" and yet if you listen to the lyrics and Matt Flegel's growls it's as steeped in the darkness and disarray as the rest of the album. It's this willingness to embrace the darkness, to expound on the certainty of death that grants Viet Cong their strength as they avoid both the whininess of emo and the effrontery of nihilistic metal. Much like "Cassette" builds to "Select Your Drone", Viet Cong builds to "Death", an 11 minute opus that capitalizes on the record's parade of bleakness and reliance on harsh sounds that also rewards you if you can endure - into a blistering, blustery b-section.

The loudest band isn't always the best band but on their self-titled debut full length Viet Cong prove the real measure of a great band is knowing when, where, and how to use that loudness. In restricting their reliance on volume to inform their sound, they ultimately draw more from themselves - requiring an inventiveness in their usage of different tones and textures from each of their members as well as how the band functions as unit. Each song seems to require a different skill from each member of Viet Cong - like the continuous percussive switch ups from drummer Mike Wallace but the most impressive moments on Viet Cong are when the band are totally in sync - skating across their songs like geese in formation.

Viet Cong's debut self-titled record is out now on Jagjaguwar.

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