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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. As unfair as it is, many are bereft - regardless of whether they're actually any good - and thus reach a much smaller audience. So it follows that Viet Cong- who many will likely recognise as the latest buzz band that people cannot seem to shut up about - are buoyed by a compelling narrative that invariably eclipses all when discussing their music. This narrative being, of course, that they are directly related to the sadly departed Calgary art-rockers Women (whose second and final album Public Strain surely ranks among the best of the decade).

More specifically, they comprise the erstwhile Pitchfork darlings' rhythm section - bassist Matt Flegel, also on vocal duties here, and drummer Mike Wallace - as well as Calgary-based musicians Scott Munro and Danny Christiansen. This connection is obviously a source of attraction for fans of Women who are excited to hear what its ex-members are doing now. But that excitement has essentially formed the basis of how we've separated Viet Cong from all the other white guys with guitars, we've pigeonholed them as Women II: The Quickening and loaded them with the hefty baggage of Women's music. For all the prestige this invites, however, it's something the band regards with utter ambivalence. They are, of course, content with people making a surface association with Women - after all, it grants them the sort of attention rarely afforded to new bands without significant label backing - but they're not content to consciously invoke it themselves. Quite right too, as doing so would generate expectations that cannot be met. As evidenced by their self-titled début album, Viet Cong are an entirely different band with an entirely different sound and are, most importantly, entirely comfortable as such.

To be sure, where Women's music was like a mist that rolled in - chilly, mysterious and ethereal - Viet Cong are more akin to a storm with their cacophonous and undeniable approach to post-punk. From the emphatic, practically industrial percussion that introduces and resounds throughout the opening track 'Newspaper Spoons', what's most immediately striking about the band is the direct and powerful nature of their music. On each of the album's seven tracks they appear almost uniquely accomplished when it comes to making a tremendous fucking racket, one that hits you hard and at a visceral level, that demands you furiously jerk around like an idiot because it's so infectious. But this is not predicated on a noisy or superficially loud mix, nor the overuse of reverb - though it is most definitely loud and meticulously adorned with reverb - rather a simple but strong interplay between the musicians, for which purposes Matt Flegel's galvanising bass is more important than his vocals (which do at times register as an instrumental layer rather than a mode of communication). Behind the studio effects, the surface melodies and experimental flourishes, which all add weight, are foundational harmonies between the instruments that organically flesh out and provide depth to the songs, that produce an aural world that feels so damn thick and imposing.

This kind of dynamism is obviously one of post-punk's key tenets, and it's evident throughout the record that Viet Cong have taken great inspiration from post-punk bands of the avant-garde persuasion: This Heat particularly (Deciet is all over this thing), but you can also hear Joy Division, The Pop Group and early Public Image Ltd in there too. Make no mistake, this album is thoroughly unorthodox, with the band employing a wide palette of discordant elements and eschewing traditional song structures in favour of something more kaleidoscopic. To wit, Viet Cong rarely allow their songs to rest, preferring instead to deftly interweave seemingly disparate ideas as they hurtle relentlessly forward towards the denouement. And this velocity is imperative because, when combined with their muscularity, it imbues their more experimental proclivities with a sense of purpose, as if they're actually going somewhere as opposed to farting around for the sake of it - which they invariably deliver on (best evidenced by 'March of Progress'). Consequently, we get songs such that are at once linear and amorphous such as 'Death' and 'Silhouettes', songs that are kind of like being in a train moving so incredibly fast that everything outside is blurred and constantly fluctuating but still undeniably careering forwards. In fact, even the slower numbers 'Newspaper Spoons' and 'March of Progress' are shifting and multifarious in this way, which lends a liberating unpredictability to the whole album. It feels so invigorating and alive as opposed to trite or domesticated to the point of banality, as most contemporary rock albums tend to be.

This is actually the same basic approach to songwriting Viet Cong adopted on their Cassette EP (reviewed here). But where the band essentially investigated the different paths on that ramshackle release, what's most impressive about their début is its unerring sense of cohesion. Obviously it helps that it was recorded in the same studio with the same producer (Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck) as opposed to self-produced in their basements. More crucially, though, they manage to strike a balance amid all the discord and chaos - somewhat remarkable considering everything going on with this album. Perhaps we could attribute this to their impeccable sense of pacing. Or to the fact that, despite the album's variety, all the disparate elements share a similar goal of creating an overall air of menace and claustrophobia, meaning that nothing ever feels out of place. Maybe we could say that, even at its most obscure, it never descends into anything particularly alienating because they demonstrate an acute awareness of when they should indulge their experimental whims and when to rein it in. Or we could add that their songs are always melodic and replete with enthralling hooks that could engross any ear, even with their avant-garde influences - the robust swagger of 'Bunker Buster's central riff, for example, or the jagged vigour of 'Silhouettes', the ecstatic chorus of lead single 'Continental Shelf' etc. Really, I doubt these points are mutually exclusive. They all contribute equally to an experience that, for all the band's ambition and experimental designs, never descends into anything fragmented, daunting or unwieldy.

So it's no wonder why people cannot, or will not, shut up about Viet Cong. A slight but perfectly judged thirty-seven minutes long, their début album is one that constantly confounds expectations and negotiates potentially difficult territory with an assured, exhilarating expertise. While we can't seem to shake the Women connection right now, the band gives a strong account for why we'll have to in the future. They're more direct, more inviting, and I'll hazard a guess that they'll appeal to far more people than Women ever did. Don't get me wrong, it's not that Viet Cong are better than Women, it's that they're nothing at all alike. It's a matter of intent, really, they're just not aiming to achieve or express the same things. That they share members is honestly just a happy coincidence. So, despite the narrative we foist upon them, Viet Cong are keen to distinguish themselves from most other white guys with guitars by being, well, fucking excellent, basically. By having more passion, more energy, more imagination than most of the field combined. By making an album that's weird and wild and I suspect unlike anything else that'll be released this year. So fuck the narrative. Fuck Women. Fuck the acrid stench of banality emanating from modern rock. Listen to Viet Cong.

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