Viet Cong - Viet Cong (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Viet Cong

Viet Cong (2015)


Post punk is having a moment. With buzz growing for bands like Savages, Ought and Lower in the last few years, it's fat times for bands that traffic in simmering aggression and jangling guitar riffs. That rising tide might not lift Viet Cong; of all the bands in the post-punk revival trend that I just made up, it is the one with most rough edges.

Not that edges are a bad thing. On its self-titled release, the band, which was formed from the ashes of Canadian psych-rock weirdos Women, embraces dissonance in a way that few other bands of the genre flock to. “March of Progress,” the album's strongest song, starts with a feedback wall before lurching into a locked-grove of hazy synthesizer and programmed drums that plays, nearly unaltered, for three minutes. It might sound boring to read it, but it represents repetition and degeneration done right.

“Bunker Buster” keeps the grind going with a thin, stabbing guitar line that gets repeated, then multiplied, only to be pulled back and reapplied throughout five minutes of echoing vocals and throbbing bass. As it progresses, the sharp guitars morph from an agitation to a welcome splash of melody. Album opener “Newspaper Spoons” sounds like less a rock song and more like a tribal chant from a David Lynch film.

The album projects an overall feeling of hopelessness, fueled largely by its reliance on art-rock fuzz effects and glitchy looping patterns. It's a mood that is sustained, even on songs that don't quite work (like the 12-minute long “Death,” which tries the same tricks as “March of Progress,” but with less focus).

That ongoing sense of oppression lends a lightness to tracks like “Silhouettes” and “Continental Shelf,” the two songs on the album that are the most straightforward post-punk, but also the least appealing for their comparative ease. Viet Cong is challenging, but it only makes finding it's moments all the more rewarding.