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]
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.