Viet Cong : "Pointless Experience"

from Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye; 2015)

By Brent Ables | 27 November 2014

One cold day in late 2005, I discovered Cokemachineglow and Wolf Parade simultaneously. Every line of my life that matters diverges from that point, and all the lines that are left converge here.

Let’s not be too reductive about this. Yes, “Pointless Experience” does invoke for us a world where it was Wolf Parade who won Grammys and battled hurricanes while Arcade Fire whoa-ohhed their way into the yawning void. On the chorus of this track, as elsewhere on Viet Cong’s upcoming self-titled debut LP, Matt Flegel does sound an awful lot like one Spencer Krug. And there’s more than a bit of Dan Boeckner’s beatnik motorik in these vice-grip grooves. Wolf Parade was Great and influenced exactly no one, until now: that alone would be cause for celebration. And sure, if you wanted, you could go on to find Kevin Shields hiding in those panned sirens wailing intermittently throughout the track. The lyrics? Straight Camus.

But forget the strategic influences. Viet Cong is its own war machine now. Last year’s Cassette EP was the very epitome of “promising,” and they have followed up on it more or less the way Flegel’s previous band Women (R.I.P.) followed up on their self-titled debut: with a darker, tighter, altogether more formidable vision. An intervention of winter vision into a poptimist landscape: this is what this band offers you. But whereas Women were content to hang back in the fog, Matt Flegel’s lyrics are upfront and center here. And what a difference that makes. Has there been a bleaker, more sinister and poetic chorus in rock music this decade than “Failed to keep the necessary papers for evacuation / Hideously synchronized with cold and cruel arithmetic / We’re desperately debilitated / If we’re lucky, we’ll get old and die”?

Look: we’re lucky. We get this song, which might not even be the best song off Viet Cong (2015) but is the one that sounds loudest the alarm for the bunker busters that follow. Have you heard the drums on this thing? As Robin recently opined over fine chianti and the crackle of CMG’s antique mahogany record player, the arrangements on this album are the best since who even knows when. Which is what happens when a hyper-talented bass player finds musicians capable of realizing the dark clockwork of his funky vision. Which: there’s that word again. All I can say is that this album gives me sight: the world looks, in this dark November, like a world that hasn’t quite spent itself yet. Pointless, yes. But what an experience.