5th February 2015
With a debut that has—quite surprisingly—managed to twist many a head 180 degrees, Viet Cong have managed to plant themselves on the frontline of the snotty indie punk brigade. This is made all the more impressive as the band’s past is one of on-stage fighting and—wait for it—Black Sabbath cover bands. It’s no wonder then that even the soundcheck seems nervous; headlining the Deaf Institute on a debut could be considered a feat.
Eventually, after they stop pissing about on stage as if it’s their first time playing together, Viet Cong begin to unload their set, assembling each piece like some IKEA furniture—tightly replicating their album, albeit rather coldly. You could read the fucking horoscopes and still predict that a group which vomits twanginess is obviously going to have a set dominated by jittery stage movements and rapid strumming. Having said that, this huge 12-stringed sonic unload is at least energetic, bright, and digestible.
As the performance trundles along it becomes pretty clear that the focus is only on one thing at a time. For the most part this is just varying the tempo, swinging like a pendulum between manic guitar fucking now and slow, waddling bass next. Elements are never really brought together, it’s one thing or another, especially upsetting after such a powerful and intricate support act.
There are points where the album’s patchy colour and discord manages to leak through the cracks, but it’s still pretty monotonous and lacks the album’s other unique selling point—sonic flailing.
Suddenly hope appears when the set takes a funky turn down disco lane with the activation of the Institute’s awe-inspiring disco ball. Somehow, like some superstitious horoscope shit, this does some good and Viet Cong abruptly jam together their best bits into an amalgamation of noise, pop and distressing church bell-like guitars. Of course this is helped by their secret weapon ‘Continental Shelf’ which, like the majestic mirror sphere dangling precariously above our heads, brings the set to a new level of grace and emotion. It’s just a shame they didn’t turn it on sooner.