Lots of bands have nicked the drum beat from The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” as an intro for their own strange pop music transgressions — The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bat For Lashes, Billy Joel. But before Viet Cong‘s “Continental Shelf,” I wasn’t aware that it could sound so heavy. It’s always been there for those who seek to hear it; on paper, it actually seems pretty damn intense — thud, thud-thud, whack! And yet, this Calgary-based indie rock group — featuring former members of the now-defunct Women — found a weightier impact within the rhythm, the snare drum practically exploding as Mike Wallace brings down the full force of his upper body upon that skin. It’s a hell of a wallop.
That goes for the whole of “Continental Shelf,” a track that — much like The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey” — pairs that Hal Blaine beat with an imposing mass of noise and distortion. But where the Reid Brothers pursued a slightly more faithful re-interpretation of Spector’s Wall of Sound, Viet Cong go for a more muscular approach. Theirs is a style of shoegaze that simultaneously contains a great deal more groove and menace. Depending on where the song is queued up, you might hear Liars, A Place to Bury Strangers, Wallace and Matt Flegel’s old band Women, or during it’s melodic, surf-inspired final chorus, The Pixies. The group takes a lot of turns and covers a lot of ground in this noisy, yet melody-forward track. But here’s the most interesting thing about it: As powerfully as it begins, and as much violence there is in its glorious din, the heaviest moments are those when Wallace lets off the accelerator, and simply spaces out a stoic bass drum backing. Suddenly everything feels so much more urgent.[from Viet Cong; out Jan. 20; Jagjaguwar/Flemish Eye]