“We were up till 7am partying in Leeds last night,” says Matt Flegel, singer and bassist in apocalyptic Calgary post-punkers Viet Cong. This explains why they couldn’t make the interview I was promised. Unfortunately for him, he’s been cornered at the bar for a pre-gig interrogation. Fortunately for me, he’s very happy to chat.
“We like Brighton,” he says, “although the last time we were here [with his previous band, Women] our van got broken into.” I apologise on behalf of my city. “It’s ok,” he replies. “It’s not as bad as, like, Detroit.”
Viet Cong make cold-climate music. You can’t imagine them coming from, say, Miami. I tell him about how I listened to them repeatedly on a recent press trip to snowy Transylvania, and about how it so perfectly suited the landscape. “My ancestors are actually from Transylvania,” comes the surprising response. “It’s a really old-world place. It feels more eastern than European. We want to tour there one day. Play some shows in Russia too.” The place is clearly hard-wired into his DNA.
He sneaks outside for a nicotine hit, while I check out the support. They’re a really enjoyable group called Absolutely Free. Not, thankfully, a Free tribute band, but a bunch of Toronto krautrockers. They sound like Neu, but that’s ok, who doesn’t? If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Despite being in the thick of a solid 15-night run of gigs, Viet Cong show no obvious signs of battle fatigue. They’re as tight as Noel Fielding’s trousers, but with Women’s rhythm section at their core I always knew they would be. The sound levels are perfect; it’s not ear-meltingly loud, but then it doesn’t need to be.
After easing us in with a few surprisingly melodic non-album tracks, they smash us in the face with Silhouettes. From then on, it’s all about the LP. Bunker Buster follows, with its pulsating, metronomic groove and Interpolesque riffs. It’s an immense piece of work.
Guitarist Monty and drummer Mike are both wearing Brudenell Social Club t-shirts. That Leeds show must have been one hell of a night. Sadly, however, (and maybe it’s a Sunday thing) the Brighton crowd aren’t at their feistiest. They applaud at the appropriate junctures, but there’s no jumping around; no real banter with the band. Perhaps this is because they can’t move. Sadly, the Green Door Store is so packed that some punters literally can’t get into the room. The sound guy asks people to move forward, but it makes no difference. It’s a real shame, because when it’s not sold out this is one of the best venues in town.
Unsurprisingly, they end on the intense, thumping 12-minute epic Death. Lyrically, like all their songs, it drips with delirium and decay. It’s like being sucked into a void; a fever dream of non-existence. The staccato cymbal-crashing bit goes on for longer than on the LP, but doesn’t outstay its welcome. You can imagine it being extended further still, into their version of My Bloody Valentine’s infamous Holocaust section.
The lads then prove there’s life after Death by granting us an encore. If there is a heaven, you can bet Viet Cong will be among the house bands.