Viet Cong were assembled from the wreckage of the band Women, and feature two of its ex-members, bassist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace. If you’re not familiar with Women don’t feel bad; they never made much impact in the UK. I only ever heard them played once on the radio (by Gideon Coe on 6 Music), but straight away I was hooked by their arcane indistinctness. I love it when you can’t work out where a band are coming from or what sentiments they’re trying to evoke.
The only time Women played in Brighton was at the Hope (with Cold Pumas in support), a venue that can squash in few more than 100 people. That was back in 2010, and it remains the best gig I’ve seen during my eight years as a Brightonian. You know when a band is in such fluid synchronicity that they seem to pull the music from the ether without any conscious intervention? Apart from a nod to the sinister discord of New York no-wave — particularly very early Sonic Youth — it was unlike anything I’d heard before.
The band split soon afterwards, and the following year their guitarist Christopher Reimer died mysteriously in his sleep. I remember being mesmerised by him at the gig, as he picked notes out of nothing and flicked them into the crowd. He was a really fucking talented guy.
So, although they’re yet to release an LP, Viet Cong have a rhythm section with cult pedigree, and you can tell by the live clips on YouTube that they’re not going to let us down. This is cold-climate music, so winter is the perfect time to see them.
Here’s a wee pick ‘n’ mix of some notable Women-related Calgary post punk.
Women: Black Rice
Probably the most accessible, but still one of the best, tracks Women ever did. Taken from their debut LP. I doubt I’ll ever tire of this.
Viet Cong: Continental Shelf
This is the only “new” track I can find by Viet Cong, but what a wall of almost gothic noise. It’s certainly got a beefier, more 80s production than the cassette release they brought out last year.
Faux Fur: Rough Palms
Ridiculously fresh-faced (I think the singer is, even now, still a teenager) and featuring the younger brother of two former Women (yes, it’s getting incestuous), this band’s excellent LP was put out on Brighton’s Faux Discx label. I’m not sure whether they’re still going. Bloody kids.
Chad VanGaalen: Weighed Sin
One of the most prolific and high-profile members of the Calgary scene, VanGaalen recorded both Women albums in his basement. His output can be hit and miss, but I loved his LPs The Green Corridor and Shrink Dust, both of which contain versions of this beautiful track.
Un Blonde: Spine
A side project from Faux Fur singer Jean-Sebastian, who can sure write a tune. He’s also quite good at going off on a detour of cacophonous, atonal, satanic noise.
Androgynous Mind: Knock on My Door
Another ex-member of Women (guitarist Patrick Flegel), in a project possibly named after a Sonic Youth song. This is the most tuneful of the tracks on the abrasive Nightstalker EP, again released on Faux Discx.
From their second and final LP, Public Strain, this is only track I ever heard by Women on the radio. Good work Gideon. It’s a bit of a classic.