Viet Cong really know how to make an entrance. The first moments of their self titled debut LP contain those drums; they’re almost tribal with intensity but they’ve been distorted and muffled to the stage where they achieve this kind of industrial vibe, evoking the likes of the Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Intense Humming of Evil’ and Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Mr. Self Destruct’. It’s this kind of deeply unsettling atmosphere that the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten just revelled in and gives the band a clear mission statement: for these Canadians, it’s still the mid 80s, and Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen and Coil are to be treated as gospel. The mood is as morbid, stark and grey as an Anton Corbijn picture. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Isolation-inflected ‘Pointless Experience’ which feels as though Ian Curtis has opted to leave the ethereal plane for about three minutes, re-enter this mortal coil so as to lay down a thoroughly downbeat, but still intriguing vocal part.
It’s all quite good, but Viet Cong struggles to escape the shadow of the bands it is trying to emulate. Really it’s not until about halfway through that the album becomes anything more than just alright. It’s on ‘March Of Progress’, the album highlight, that the band seem to come alive and find more of their own identity. In its six minute length, we’re taken on a three movement journey from instrumental heavy drums through 60s pop, before finding a comfortable middle ground in the new wave-inflected closer.
The album continues this trend with ‘Bunker Buster’, which has a truly phenomenal chorus. It’s one of the singular points on the album when the band are themselves and showcase just what they have to offer. The rest of the album is perfectly fine. ‘Silhouettes’ sounds a bit too close to Interpol and a myriad of other early 2000s post-punk bands for its own good and the album closer suffers on account of its length, but overall it’s a perfectly acceptable release. It’s very clear that the band are still trying to carve out some kind of personality and when their persona does rear its head, it is really enjoyable. Let’s hope that this LP is more of stepping stone towards the group becoming their own entity than a Frankenstein-like amalgamation of their various influences. Will Murphy
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