And here’s my punk album of the year. Viet Cong, released over a year ago now, is a megaton bomb of a record that marches to a violent and martial drum. Fusing indie rock and post-punk seamlessly together, the band emerge with a unique sound in which moments of bleak distortion and fuzz are set against artillery bursts of euphoric guitar, and bass as thick as trench-mud sticks in every corner of the mix. The prevailing theme is war: senseless violence; death and the fear of it; torture; power. And the music conveys all this chaos through its relentless onslaught of instrumental shrapnel. From the very first moments of ‘Newspaper Spoons’, where the drums form an aggressive call to arms, all the way to the final, breathless moments of ‘Death’, this is an album that just never lets the pace down for one moment.
‘March Of Progress’ is perhaps the tune that best represents the synthesis of sounds this album was aiming for. At six minutes long, the song begins with an experimental passage of programmed drums and wheezing synthesizers, sounding a bit like something This Heat might have made in the 80s, before building to a sinister climax. Then, right as the song threatens to explode, it suddenly shifts into a jumpy indie rock tune that is by far the most upbeat moment on the record. It shouldn’t work, but this final passage of the song is so infectious that it somehow fits perfectly.
But let’s talk about ‘Death’, the final track on the album. Because holy fucking fuck. This song is just nuts. Eleven minutes long and staggeringly intense, it brings the albums lyrical themes to a head and closes out the album with what I can only describe as an aural depiction of what it feels like to die. And not just to die, but to be fucking blasted to pieces on a war-torn beach and then to slowly bleed out in a state of escalating panic and complete terror. Beginning with a melodic guitar line and some punchy, off-kilter drumming, ‘Death’ continues to grow and grow into a huge, monstrous beast of a song. Panning synthesizers are introduced across the speaker channels, sounding like bomber planes circling overhead. Then, at the three minute mark, the song collapses under its own weight and transforms into a heavy hardcore punk chug of guitar feedback and relentless drums: pure fear in the face of death. At the 6 minute mark, it reaches a moment of almost zen-like musical intensity as the guitar begins to play just one single chord, over and over and over again as if replaying the moment of falling from an enormous precipice. Matt Flegel’s vocals become an incomprehensible howl, building and building in ferocity until the song, and the album, collapses in heap of bloodlust and frustration.
It might just be my favourite song of 2015, and seeing it performed live in Leeds earlier this year was utterly, utterly ridiculous. The perfect bookend to an incredible album, and one of last year’s absolute best.