The term “post-punk” is almost as nauseatingly ubiquitous as saying “indie”, but language is descriptive and lazy-usage aside, post-punk is going to land you smack bang into Viet Cong-territory. The Canadian 4-piece arrive on a wave of expectation due to their outstanding self-titled album that has just been released; Mercury Lounge is suitably packed to the rafters (as was Union Pool the previous night).
Openers What Moon Things were an appropriate appetiser for the nights main course, they’ve made the trek from New Paltz in upstate NY and play a quiet-loud-quiet template that reminds me of Cymbals Eat Guitars, the tone is icy and the band locked into slow grooves. I picked up the record after the show.
The songs on Viet Cong are often described as bleak, wintery, dark, and other synonyms, personally I find the saddest songs often the most beautiful. Regardless, it’s a meticulously crafted record. The band’s onstage demeanour is in contrast downright playful with smiles all round; Bassist/singer Matt Flegel smirks as he proclaims “we’re going to play another serious song now”.
Six of the seven tracks from the new record get an airing, with only opening song Newspaper Spoons omitted, we were also treated to Unconscious Melody and Oxygen Feed from 2013’s Cassette release. A further highlight was a brand new song, which was possibly the fastest played in the evening, more along the lines of Silhouettes, they were still working out a few parts but it seemed pretty finished to these ears.
These Calgarians are accomplished musicians and the 6/4 pattern of Bunker Buster gives the nerds something to chew on. The set was closed out with the first song of 2015 to really blow me away; Death also closes the record and you can’t imagine a place for it anywhere else because there’s just nowhere left to go after 11-minutes of near perfection. We do get a false start for the song as drummer Mike Wallace accidentally trips one of the guitar pedals while he steals some of guitarist Scott Munro’s beer, but it’s the kind of thing that adds to the charm of the night and they’re back on track after some more laughs.
Mercury Lounge‘s pricey beer and occasional lack of atmosphere can be a hindrance at times, but what it does have is the best sounding room in the city, which handles the band perfectly. I could imagine some of their music turning into a bit of a mess on a substandard PA, what’s also interesting about seeing Viet Cong is being able to see what they’re actually playing. Some parts of the record I thought were played on synths or through a pedal ended up being the opposite. The call-and-response interplay between Daniel Christiansen and Scott Munro’s guitars is also best experienced live.
Viet Cong will be back in New York for the Northside festival, with a show at Music Hall Williamsburg on the 13th of June (that happens to be my birthday…). The hype machine chews bands up and spits them out at an alarming rate, but Viet Cong are the real deal on this evidence.