By Dan Manning
Viet Cong’s self-titled LP opens with an immense, industrial booming, as if someone at the other end of the factory is banging their head against a stack of the heaviest sheet metal. The opening track, “Newspaper Spoons” is covered in a thick layer of noise, building upon the pounding opening beat until it eventually collapses into looping, dreamy synth patterns that seem to dissipate into the night air. The track makes a very good first impression, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. The tone is one of darkness, a dreary noise-soaked sonic landscape that is maintained from the first note of the album to its last.
Arising from the ashes of Women, the self-titled debut finds Viet Cong creating a conglomerate of sounds, from angular and disjunct post-punk riffs to repetitive, industrial noise. This seems to be the general dichotomy of the album, as most tracks tend to lean either one way or another. However, there are a few moments in which these two stylistic elements are perfectly combined. One of these is the track “March of Progress”, the first half of which consists of a repetitive, noise-soaked groove with a low-humming synth underlying all the chaos. Suddenly the noise disappears, while the rhythm and pulse remain and noodly guitar parts are thrown into the mix. The transition is seamless, yet serves to completely switch up the feel of the track.
The most accessible and straightforward track on the album is the single “Continental Shelf” which starts off with a huge drumbeat and jangly, chorus-soaked guitar and bass that is very reminiscent of The Cure. This beat falls away into a steady pulse, with distant lead guitar lines wailing away in the background. The chorus is about as catchy as any sort of post-punk can be, and is easily one of the most overtly melodic moments on the album.
The album’s closer is titled “Death” which serves as a perfect conclusion for the dreary feel presented throughout all of the previous tracks. The opening instrumentation is chaotic and repetitive, yet somehow manages to mold together perfectly. The vocals enter in an Ian Curtis-inspired moan, a nod to a very obvious Joy Division influence present in many other moments throughout the album. At a staggering eleven minutes, the track does a great job in slowly growing in intensity, building up the layers of noise and instrumental dynamics. The track peaks in a very Swans-inspired rhythmic assault, bringing to mind the opening of tracks such as “Bring the Sun” off of To Be Kind. It is a fully cathartic and expressive moment, and one can feel the culmination of all of the album’s frustration and tension through the pounding pulse coming from every instrument in the band. Then suddenly, the moment is gone and the band sprints off into a high paced post-punk conclusion. They manage to reach a peak, and come down from that peak without losing any momentum or energy. The track serves as a perfect conclusion and a perfect combination of every element present on the album’s previous tracks. Viet Cong leaves one feeling cold, and provides a view of the world through a lens of dreary cynicism. It has a very definitive tone, and as such feels incredibly wholesome and complete. Every song shares stylistic elements and atmosphere, leaving the listener depressed yet satisfied.
Dan Manning co-hosts Nightmare On Coulter Street, which can be heard Tuesdays (Monday nights) from 12-1 am on whus.org or 91.7 FM.