2006: SPOTLIGHT ON...
Chronological, Geographical, and Sonic Journey
let the picture fool you. This ain’t the 21st Century Manson
family nightmare you had in mind. These aren’t run-of-the-mill
weird beard freak folkies - or cookie-cutter heavy retro-stoners,
or purveyors of any other subcultural musical trend of the last
few years. This is the personal rock’n’roll of vision
of Vietnam. They’ll remind you less of The
Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and The Velvet Underground than they
From Big Pink, Blood on the Tracks, Tonight’s
The Night, Loaded, and
other rare moments when distinct musical voices have delivered very
straightforward yet compelling rock’n’roll.
far Vietnam only has a single commercial release to its credit –
an EP that Vice Records released but didn’t do much to promote
a couple of years ago. So, while you’re forgiven if you haven’t
heard of them, be forewarned that Vietnam is poised to drop some
serious rock bombs on the world in coming months. Last month they
completed the mixing of theirself-titled full-length debut. These
eleven epics of the blackest night range from rocking to contemplative,
and, production-wise, from raw to Specteresque. There’re just
enough strings, horns, and backing vocals to broaden the horizons
– but not so much that distracts from the whole or polishes
the grit. And, despite their tendency towards high fidelity and
grandiose ornamentation, the record never loses its organic feel.
I’ve had a hard time listening to anything else since they
handed me a copy.
drift towards a rather pure rock sound will of course confound the
critics of two years ago who said they were too derivative of Spiritualized,
and the Mary Chain, and other spatial two-chord minimalists.
While the band abandoned this style some time ago, loopy residue
from these more monochrome influences are definitely one of the
more unique features of the band’s sound. Another element
that defines their approach and distinguishes them from other classic
rockers is their combination of jaded New York urbanity and a raw
twangy, occasionally acid-tinged, Texas eccentricity. While it would
be an oversimplification to say that their sound merely reflects
their musical geography, three-fourths of the band are Texas-to-New
York transplants, and they started performing as Vietnam after moving
back to Texas, before winding up in New York once more. An illustration
of this binary in action is the time when asked them if they would
do a cover song single for my label and they couldn’t decide
between Suicide and Roky Erickson.
knows that rock’n’roll is pure voodoo. All feeling.
Rock’s mythology has always championed those things that can’t
be quantified. There’s no boundary between the music and the
lifestyle. In an era saturated by the mediocre music that’s
rendered the genre all but invalid, rock doesn’t come naturally
and still can’t be learned in school. It must develop through
years of living and listening experience. Though
I can’t tell you how Vietnam obtained their secret knowledge,
I can tell you where they’ve been. Vietnam’s sound may
have been different had they achieved a certain measure of success
early on. The band’s long winding staircase to their present
glory has thus far been comprised almost exclusively of little victories.
But this journey of baby steps and setbacks has proved necessary
– leading them from their extremely stylized and somewhat
derivative roots to something completely their own. What follows
are the the trials and travails, or trails and travels, of this
unique band across American musical culture.
back to spotlight on... vietnam home
| go forward to p. 2, welcome to
New York Night Train , 2006