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Viet Cong
Viet Cong Daniel Ross , January 16th, 2015 16:15

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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. Women were a very fine band that didn't work for two main reasons: one was a notorious, slappy mid-show bust-up between brothers Matt and Pat Flegel which signaled the personal demise of the band; the other was the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer in 2012, which signaled the ultimate demise. Both of the albums that Women succeeded in making before those circumstances overtook them, especially 2010's Public Strain, were perfectly diseased gems of invention, works of surf-pop breeze tuned down and flawlessly emaciated, leaving only the barest shards of loveable pop for a listener to dangle from. 

Women were like the indie version of what everyone says about Fawlty Towers and The Office, something that was rendered even more special by dint of its dearth. And we might've craved a third album, or one more European tour, but the irreversible circumstances mentioned above meant there was never any chance of getting the band back together. In the end, bassist/vocalist Matt Flegel and guitarist Mike Wallace were the ones that made it through to start Viet Cong along with a fellow member of Chad VanGaalen's touring line-up and the alumnus of a Black Sabbath covers band. Viet Cong arrive, then, with no little back-story, no matter how much they might wish listeners ignored it so that we focus solely on the present. 

The heartening, splendid news is that this first album, a self-titled, seven-track whirlwind, is full-on brilliant all the way through. What's survived from Women has been boiled on Viet Cong. That band's plaintive, distant rasp has been heightened and streamlined. Matt Flegel can be heard to scream like an offended Spencer Krug at certain points. Though guitars are important, they're no longer absolutely everything. The drums sound like timpani being thrown into an echo chamber. Keyboards are now the element that supply the most tonality. All these super tweaks and the way they're deployed are ornate little factors that make each song its own man. Each chiseled musical element is evidence that every angle of the wintry outlook has been carefully surveyed before pressing 'record'. 

What sounds loudest, though, is Viet Cong's desperation to create. On 'Pointless Experience' Flegel sings, "If we're lucky we'll get old and die," which is impossible not to connect with the early death of Christopher Reimer. The mortal pressure to be productive was something that Women never suffered from and, as Flegel made plain in an interview with Pitchfork last year, well, events like the death of a friend make you pace around the room and worry about the future. The sound is measured and controlled for the most part, only speeding off into an Oneida-esque extended instrumental workout on the final epic 'Death', but that doesn't mean that there isn't a wild desire on display here, a primal efficiency and condensation of intent. Opener 'Newspaper Spoons', for example, has those clattering timpani-like drums, about 12 individual words and some nice organ at the end, barely a thing more than that, but it sounds so tautly executed and full of vitality. 

That surging vitality, brevity, an insatiable and itchy creative hunger, are all perfect ingredients for a debut record. And while backstory will no-doubt factor in how Viet Cong is received, it's important to remember that this is still just that: a debut record. Hopefully, Viet Cong will be luckier than Women were and delight us with further records as strong as this one. The last thing we need from these guys is another reason to create myths and wonder what might've happened if they could've given it a few more years. No, for the time being, it's enough to enjoy this on its own. This will do very nicely for now. 

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Dee Dee
Jan 17, 2015 4:08am

Hey, psssss ... it's Pat Flegel not Brian.

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JM
Jan 17, 2015 11:38am

also it's drummer Mike Wallace that's ex-Women, not Scott Munro.

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Mike
Jan 17, 2015 6:53pm

How did you fail to do even the slightest amount of research on the band before writing this piece? Seriously, I would have expected this from Pitchfork, but not the Quietus.

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Daniel
Jan 19, 2015 10:50am

In reply to Mike:

Total oversight there by me. I got confused and have notified the reviews ed. Apologies.

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chuck
Jan 20, 2015 3:53pm

In reply to Mike:

f'n whiners complaining that their free content is less than ideal. I think the really important research was the time spent listening to and evaluating the record. Check your rage.

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Jan 21, 2015 6:51pm

In reply to chuck:

It's awful.

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Ronnie Jotton
Jan 22, 2015 4:31am

Jeez I can barely keep up with the endless tide of new music, I couldn't name a single member of most of the bands I've bought record buy in the last few years...I had no idea what had happened to Women, but Anyway, pedantry aside this is a darn good record. Great, twisted, arty weirdness...good songs, good noises..listen to if its ace.

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jeffort23
Jan 28, 2015 4:32am

The brutal, wind-whipped debut from Calgary post-punks Viet Cong sweeps down on you --- this winter's bleakest polar vortex to date.
http://ludditestereo.com/2015/01/26/viet-cong-viet-cong-album-review/

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kolyn
Feb 2, 2015 1:44pm

i'm really getting into this record, there's parts in there that are amazing but they last only a few bars... some of the riffs are killer.. it'll be intriguing to watch this band develop

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I am not Trevor Nunn
Feb 6, 2015 1:21pm

After all the hype and recommendation, this is immensely disappointing. It just doesn't hold together - it's like some average whiney band from the mid 90s have listened to too much Actress and decided to tack on some 'trendy' beats at the beginning/ end of the tracks. Disjointed and average. It's personal taste though, I guess you can't win them all.

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Oissin
Mar 3, 2015 5:12pm

Fucking finally a band who sound like This Heat :D

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