11.20.2014 — “Continental Shelf” by Viet Cong

Viet Cong

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Continental Shelf” by Viet Cong (2015, from the forthcoming album Viet Cong).

Viet Cong is a post-punk/noise quartet from Calgary. Two of the guys used to be in the now defunct shoegaze band Women — Matt Flegel (vocals/bass) and Mike Wallace (drums). They are joined by Scott Munro, who was a live guitarist for Chad VanGaalen, and Daniel Christiansen(guitar). Christiansen used to play in a Black Sabbath cover band with Flegel and Wallace.

The band started in 2012 after Women broke up and one of its members passed away. They immediately did a ton of touring, including a bunch of dates in Europe. So far, their only release has been a tour-only, cassette-only EP called Cassette.

Recently, the band joined the illustrious roster at Jagjaguwar Records, and they’re set to release a highly anticipated self-titled album early in the new year.

I had never heard of this project until I got an email yesterday promoting the video for the song. I promise we’ll get to that. The email quoted Kim Taylor Bennett from Noisey, who, in the premier of the video said:

As for the song itself, Viet Cong … match each squally, distorted guitar lick, and stomped out beat, with a ragged, larynx-shredded Pixies-like pop nous, and this is the perfect union of sound and vision.

That’s a well-crafted and very convincing sentence. That, honestly, was all it took to sell me. With expectations high, I clicked on the video, and I was not disappointed. I promise we’ll get to the video later.

This is that song:
“Continental Shelf” by Viet Cong

There again is the tap of the glove to that iconic “Be My Baby” drum bit in the open. Kick… kick-kick-snare/tambourine. Coupled with some very high-end-y guitar, it seems innocent enough. For the first 15 seconds anyway. Then there’s that heavy, frozen wave of dark fuzzy bits and ice.
Then, at 0:59, under that icy wall of sound and the bass line that Peter Hook would be proud of, there’s a line that goes something like

Don’t wanna face the wall
It’s suffocating. Suffocating

I can’t quite make out the lines, but during this bit, and until about 1:47, I’m reminded a bit of Funeral-era Arcade Fire. Remember when Arcade Fire used to be dark as hell and awesome and not quite so full of themselves? Yeah. That.

Everything that I’ve read about Viet Cong includes adjectives like “bleak”, “chilly”, “pitch-black”. Based on “Continental Shelf”, they certainly are those things. In the interest of balancing out the “negative” words, they should also add “electrifying”, “intense”, “powerful”. By reports that I’ve read, this album’s dark, cold tone is perfectly fitted for a winter release. But I’m sure it’ll still be spinning at my house in the hot months of July and August.

Finally, we’ll get to the video. It’s creepy and just a tiny bit NSFW, so be careful. It’s also brilliant:

The video’s director Yoonha Park has also directed videos for Beach House, Bear in Heaven, Washed Out, M83, Broken Social Scene, A Place To Bury Strangers, and many more. You can see part of his portfolio here. Anyway, he said he wanted this to look “like a reel of film that was purchased accidentally at a garage sale or found buried under someone’s front porch”, and “an incomplete picture—like screen tests from a lost movie.” Check, and check. It’s creepy and weird and disjointed and brilliant. And I love it.

Viet Cong will be out on January 20 via Jagjaguwar, and you can pre-order here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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