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+ {Viet Cong}

Distinctive in their use of electronics and conventional instruments, Canada’s VIET CONG – as they were initially known – looked to be heading for bigger and better things on the release of a promising debut set early in 2015. The merger of two combos from Calgary: Women and Lab Coast, Matt Flegel (vocals/bass) and fellow CHAD VANGAALEN moonlighter Scott “Monty” Munro (guitar/synths) decided to form their own band, upset at the death in 2012 of Women guitarist Christopher Reimer.
Roping in associates from the pair’s previous acts, drummer Mike Wallace (from Women) and guitarist Danny Christiansen (from a Black Sabbath tribute act), all four decided on the VIET CONG moniker; touted originally when selling their “Cassette” EP on tour in 2013. Adding a version of BAUHAUS’ `Dark Entries’, the 6-track became 7 when released as a 12” for the Mexican Summer imprint, while two of its most popular tracks, `Throw It Away’ and Unconscious Melody’ had been available to download. Impressing not only Canada’s Flemish Eye independent but Jagjaguwar Records south of the border, producer Graham Walsh was called up to work alongside Flegel and Munro on songs they’d been working on for a few years.
Recalling noisy indie-rock pre-80s (possibly GANG OF FOUR, JOY DIVISION, TELEVISION and early SUBWAY SECT), the eclectic quartet’s eponymous VIET CONG {*8} strummed its way into the hearts and minds of reviewers all around the globe. Muscular rhythms over angular/jarring guitars, quick-fire drums and echo-laden singing, touched by the own sonic discord, the VC fired up some intelligent lo-fi rock by way of `Bunker Buster’, `Continental Shelf’, `Silhouettes’ and their 11-minute mind-f**k topping `Death’. The best young Canadian band of our times – bar-none and ones to watch, the quartet thought it best not to offend anyone by changing their moniker. As with their previous incarnation, an eponymous album, PREOCCUPATIONS {*8}, re-kickstarted their campaign in September 2016. Not their greatest ever decision. Shifting little from their post-apocalyptic agenda through EDITORS-meets-WHITE LIES-type opening dirges `Anxiety’, `Monotony’ and `Zodiac’ – running up to recurring dreamscape of the seismic 11-minute `Memory’ – progression rather than degradation was the order of the quartet’s brave nu-world order; `Stimulation’ and `Fever’ concluding this chapter in verse.
Still only indie contenders as far as sales, PREOCCUPATIONS had their mind set on the release of album number two under their new-found moniker. NEW MATERIAL (2018) {*8} was not the most original of titles (then again?!), though it did exactly what it said on the tin – so to speak. Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen, maybe Jagjaguwar Records thought they’d another BON IVER on their hands, but underrated the band remained. Possibly sounding much too much like early PSYCHEDELIC FURS sharing a studio with JOY DIVISION and/or the ghost of BOWIE, the quartet’s growing legion of devotees would no doubt subscribe to post-punk/industrial excursions such as `Espionage’, `Decompose’, `Disarray’, `Manipulation’ and `Doubt’. Ones to watch for the future.
© MC Strong/MCS Jan2015-Mar2018

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