VietNam CD review [Kemado]

Music Reviews
VietNam CD review [Kemado]
Apr 23, 2007, 03:43



It is a shame that VietNam have made it to the point where they are playing large scale concert halls because repeated listenings to their self-titled album have led me to believe that they may be the greatest exponents of 21st Century Pub Rock currently existing. This is by no means an insult; but their music brings forth images of a packed and badly lit dive bar in which I can literally smell the sweat of the patrons, the band members, and the ceiling as it mixes, not to mention the spilled beer on the floor, tasting the drifting smoke from the stubbed cigarettes drifting in from outside the bar. VietNam are making the kind of music one could only listen to at 1:30 AM, when the bartender is about to shout for last call, it's pretty clear you're not going to get laid that night, and your buzz is quickly turning into a headache as fatigue begins to descend.Â

Listening to this album, VietNam prove quite clearly that they have done their homework and end up less drunk than The Replacements, less angst–ridden than American Music Club, less self-conscious than The Afghan Whigs, and certainly more ballsy and Exile On Main Street-educated than The Strokes. Singer/guitarist Michael Gerner also employs plenty of Lou Reed and Bob Dylan cues to make it clear he and the band are well aware of what have come before them. Lead guitarist Josh Grubbs exhibits some great tone and flow, sort of a Richard Hell-era Television meets What's The Story (Morning Glory?)-era Oasis. The rhythm section moves along unobtrusively, both steady and strong. These guys have definitely worn down their copies of Loaded, Goat's Head Soup and Ooh-La-La well. Some of the more "strongly influenced" material such as "Welcome To My Room" (which sounds uncannily like Television's cover of The 13th Floor Elevators' "Fire Engine"), and "Hotel Riverview" (with an opening that is a dead ringer for The Rolling Stones' take on Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain") works because they are obviously paying tribute and not playing ignorant. The album, however, also has the strange effect of something akin to hearing a band attempting to do covers of songs they have only heard once or twice and don't actually know very well.Â

VietNam is a bit of a warm blur, a very tightly wrapped package indeed, and it does take repeated listenings to get it unraveled before the songs start to stand out on their own and not seem like mere extensions of each other. I imagine this stuff cooks live, much in the same way Dr. Feelgood or Graham Parker And The Rumour translated better in a live setting than in the studio. I would love to hear Gerner deliver the standout line "And honey, I don't give a flying fuck if you want to try to save me/Because I'll be doing fine here on my own" from the album's closer "Too Tired" to a room full of people swaying in time to the tune's punch drunk shuffle as it would certainly be well worth the price of admission, regardless of what it may be. [Kemado]

-Nick Blakey

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