Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
To some, Viet Cong will always live in the shadow of Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace's previous band, Women. That's fair. Plenty of people never forgave the surviving members of Joy Division for continuing on as New Order. But in case Viet Cong's first record, the twice-released Cassette, wasn't enough to convince people that it's time to move on from Women, the Calgary band's self-titled debut album should have no problem doing the trick.Recorded with Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck) inside a barn, Viet Cong maintains the same shadowy, droning tones that haunted Cassette, only taking them deeper into the abyss.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Many bands begin the same way - with a naive sense of conviction and ramshackle creative freedom - but they're not all created equal. That is to say, an emerging artist rarely becomes the toast of Twitter through the strength of their music alone. We often need something more, a quality that allows us to distinguish artists within the rapidly swelling abscess of new music, that embeds them within the collective consciousness easier than if they were bereft of such a quality.
Starting a band is easy; an actual career in indie rock is a much tougher proposition these days. Financial success seems harder and harder to come by and saying something new within the context of guitar based music might be even more difficult. Maybe you get to express yourself, but what if you think music should aspire to something other than being a vehicle for your feelings? You’ll probably just get compared to bands who ceased to exist two decades ago.
“Check your anxiety/No need to suffer silently”, or so says Matt Flegel on “Continental Shelf” thus revealing the two key themes of Viet Cong’s debut album; fear and noise. Fear of what every living person dreads in varying degrees of unease; the unshakable, inevitable end. Death is a startlingly demonstrable presence on Viet Cong. Back in 2012 Flegel’s previous band Women came to sad and sudden end with the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer.
This winter has been brutal so far, so I’m appreciative for whatever warms me. Not that Viet Cong is an album that exudes warmth — at least not overtly — but it is there, insulated under brittle layers of loathing and disaffection. Musically speaking, Viet Cong’s angular, soupy melange of danceable post-punk and turn-of-the-millennium NAIR is hardly more lighthearted.
There’s nothing new to say about death. Artists continue to tear through the subject for material because it’s organic, universal, and meaningful, but almost never is something new revealed about its significance or its effects. This is why the most engaging works about death are the direct result of something—the loss of a loved one or a near-death experience, perhaps.
At first, Viet Cong’s debut appears to be coming from a dark place. “If we’re lucky we’ll get old and die” sings bassist Matt Flegel on ‘Pointless Experience’, but context is important: three years after his former Women bandmate Christopher Reimer died tragically at 26, it’s equally plausible that Flegel is instead fetishising the ageing process. The Calgary noise band are completed by ex-Women drummer Mike Wallace plus guitarists Scott Munro and Danny Christiansen, so they haven’t quite ripped it up and started again.
Viet Cong are the sort of band that makes you think use of the word "eclectic" should have been saved especially for them. On their first full-length album, simply titled Viet Cong, this group's music encompasses lo-fi noise and hi-fi electronic sheen, fuzzy guitars and thundering digital percussion, relentless drum patterns looping through banks of undefinable and formless sound, droning keyboards bumping up against indie rock guitar bashing, and clean and jangly 12-strings cheek by jowl with deep, echo-laden vocals. While Viet Cong only boasts seven songs, there seems to be at least three times as many musical personalities making their way through this music, and despite the spacious range of sounds and perspectives, Viet Cong manage to fuse it all into something scattershot yet coherent, unified by a strong stylistic through-line and an abundance of energy.
There’s no way to make mention of Viet Cong without first recognizing the abrupt termination of intrepid noise pop band Women back in 2010. Like a ticking bomb that could go off any minute, Women seemed to operate in shambles both in a creative and personal way. After an on-stage altercation between brothers Matt and Brian Flegel, a dead giveaway for their termination, things turned gravely unfortunate when former guitarist Christopher Reimer passed away due to heart complications.
Viet Cong aren’t a band to be overshadowed. Featuring two former members of the highly appreciated rock band Women, the quartet could have succumbed to the pressure that a lot of bands do to deliver a project of equal or better quality than before. What these Calgary-based pals have done though is neither: they’ve packed their shit up, accelerated off into the distance in an entirely different direction and are refusing to let the past catch up with them.
Viet Cong are a Canadian four-piece who – like fellow indie bods PC Worship from New York and Southend’s These New Puritans – dabble in industrial textures and noise reminiscent of Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle. Their seven-track debut sees them connect the dots between the two worlds and, perhaps where some of their forebears have failed, find tunes among the melee. There are moments when over-saturated drums meet Gregorian chanting and Magnet-style folk oddness (Newspaper Spoons and March of Progress), but the band are at their best when experimentation complements their songwriting rather than defines it.
If the first New Order record had ended with a cacophonous 11-minute track called ‘Death’, you have to imagine people would have read something into it. So while at no point does the self-titled debut from Canada’s Viet Cong make any direct allusion to the passing of Christopher Reimer – late guitarist from Women – it’s hard not imagine the band formed by Women's Matt Fiegel and Mike Wallace's as haunted by their erstwhile bandmate on some level. In large part that's because Viet Cong is a stupendously heavy album, not so much because it’s loud – though it is really loud – as dazingly visceral.
Following a spot of sibling rivalry culminating in an on-stage brawl between brothers Patrick and Matt Flegel, Canadian art-rock outfit Women slinked away and in early 2012 when guitarist Christopher Reimer sadly died in his sleep, there was no way back for the band. The same year saw the birth of Calgary’s Viet Cong, a new quartet led by Matt with no Patrick in sight; ex-Women drummer Mike Wallace, Lab Coast’s Scott Munro and Sharp Ends’ Danny Christiansen completed the foursome, with at least three of the four still holding down other jobs as the band awaits lift-off over two years later. But following the release of the debut eponymous album, things look set to change.
Calgary's Viet Cong were formed by ex-members of the late-'00s art-noise band Women, and they display a similar love of dark humor and dissonant guitars. The new band's debut arrives three years, almost to the day, after Women guitarist Christopher Reimer died mysteriously in his sleep at age 26. Viet Cong hardly shy away from evoking that tragedy, and at times they seem to still be processing its long-term impact: Check the throttling 11-minute opus "Death." It's impossible not to nod along to synth-swelled tracks like "Pointless Experience," even if the chorus is "If we're lucky/We'll get old and die." These guys wear their goth-punk Purple Heart proudly.
Viet Cong count two members of Calgary-based ex-band Women among their number. Band in "emerging from other band's ashes" shocker, etc. Of course, this is not a piece of information that should direct any anticipation towards receipt of Viet Cong's debut album, and nor would they likely appreciate a fairly detailed examination of why it's a Very Exciting Thing that this album exists, but here we are.
Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar) A dearth of scuzzy indie-rock bands scoring Spin covers not five years ago? That explains the groundswell around Calgary post-punkers Viet Cong. In the offing: defining swaths of analog and industrial grime ("March of Progress"), plus danceable, robotic groove ("Bunker Buster"), and the 11-minute "Death" with all the motorik desiccation you could hope for. And what do we learn? That young men had the wherewithal to torrent all the bands namechecked on LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge." Of course that was proven with Crystal Stilts, and Women, and the Soft Moon, and Zola Jesus, and No Age, and Deerhunter.
Last year, Viet Cong gave us the seven-track Cassette, which made clear the Calgary band's apocalyptic, experimental outlook. Their self-titled debut full-length follows through on that but reduces the drone and adds more accessibility, melody and cohesion to the equation, making it one hella searing and impactful album to start the year off right. The four-piece includes two members of sadly defunct Women, whose own noisy, abrasive tendencies won them lots of love.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > The story of the short-lived, long-shadowed Calgary band Women ends sadly, with toxic infighting, an onstage brawl, an indefinite hiatus, and finally the unexpected and untimely death of guitarist Chris Reimer in 2012. It’s a sobering trajectory in any case, but adding salt to the wound is, of course, the fact that Women were one of the best rock bands of the last two decades. Tenser than No Age, heavier than Deerhunter, and less abstract than These New Puritans, their three closest contemporaries in indie rock, Women’s only externally apparent fault was these four dudes’ obnoxious assumption of their search-engine-confounding bandname.
As it eventually winds from bombastic, tom-tom bashing march to lilting synth-psych to nearly nothing, “Newspaper Spoons” announces Viet Cong as a formidably complex post-punk album. Harsh and exciting bits of jarring guitar move into sustained sections of krautrock whir. Vocals don’t stay in the forked vein, but straighten into choral melodies.