An early helping from Canadian quartet Viet Cong’s self-titled debut album, the band’s first single Continental Shift delivers a bleak soundscape saturated with hard and unforgiving experimental guitar licks.
Raw noise and distortion may be Viet Cong’s staple, but underneath all the doom and gloom lies subtle pop sensibilities.
Emerging from the tumultuous demise of Art Rock group Women, ex-band members Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace linked up with associates Chad Van Gaalen and Danny Christiansen to release EP Cassette in 2014, following on quickly from this the band have been hard at work in the confines in a barn in rural Ontario to produce their follow up album.
While the band hasn’t completely eschewed the melding of post-punk, noise rock and psychedelic garage present in previous EP Cassette, it is clear that the band has brought their sound in line with a darker aesthetic. The euphoric tone of their previous work gives way to ominous themes of doom, danger and disillusion. Written predominantly on the road, the sense of repetition and exhaustion the band no doubt experienced at the time of conception bleeds through into the track.
The discerning reader who might be thinking these stark nightmarish visions are a bit off-putting; there is also some subtler pop sensitivity at play here too. When you strip back the bleak there are some undeniably catchy vocal and guitar melodies to enjoy. Raw noise and distortion veil a guitar hook and vocal melody which will get under your skin. The bass riffs, dense production and application of guitar effects make a nod to David Bowie’s Heroes. The bombastic hook, which is given to the listener upfront and interwoven throughout the song, works well to bring the song out of the stratosphere of sonic experimentation and back down to planet earth.
What really works is that every musical element works in unison to create one massive build that pushes to a thunderous climax. Raw and distorted guitar chops drone with happy helpings of distortion. A broad spread and shifting panning within the guitar mix ensures that the listener is subjected to an unsettling assault of guitar noise. Lead singer Matt Flegel’s vocals seethe and thrum away beneath the surface of the massive sound of the guitar.
Lyrics weave a narrative of isolation, violation, hopelessness and failure to connect. The cold and aggressive vocal delivery compliments the hard edge of the instrumentation and pushes the track further into the depths of disillusion. The driving bass and thudding drums give the song a lot of bite. Guitar and vocals briefly take a back seat giving the composite parts of the rhythm section brief glimmering moments to shine.
Viet Cong have hit the ground running with this ominous and experimental track. If Continental Shift is a taste of things to come, I’ll certainly have some more.
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