May 2006:

Music Concrete

Aware of how the Philadelphia freedom was rubbing Vietnam the wrong way, and in the process of moving out of the Long Island City apartment where I used to live with Michael I,, I called the boys to see if they wanted to take my room. In a few weeks they were New Yorkers once more.

While Vietnam was still in Philly, Vice Records, which was in its infancy, was already talking to the band about making a record. After a few months they firmed up an agreement to release a limited addition EP. The good news was that the label sent them to the legendary Magic Shop to record with wunderkind producer/engineer Matt Boynton. The bad news was that they had only one day to record the EP. The result is the charming, soulful, but somewhat patchy five-song The Concrete's Always Grayer On The Other Side Of The Street – which didn’t see the light of day until the next summer.

The Concrete is Always Grayer On The Other Side Of The Street is an accurate representation of the band’s sound at the time. Though they’d been away from New York for two years, they kept it in their hearts for this slab of druggy jaded urban noise. The nomadic yet sheltered life they’d been living is also implicit in the misanthropic grit of the words and music. Michael’s lines are delivered with nasal Dylanesque phrasing in random meter – juxtaposing choppy sentences and elongated words - providing a stream-of-consciousness illusion. The sparse sound, minimal major-key structure, slow-mid tempos, and loose builds definitely belong to a lineage that began somewhere around The Velvet Underground and Nico and passed on through English shoegazers and wound up in Vietnam’s veins.

The Concrete is Always Grayer On The Other Side Of The Street was met with a mixed reception – the few times it found any reception at all. Vice didn’t officially promote the EP but did send out a few copies for review. One negative write-up, which was more of an attack against Vice than Vietnam, mentioned that the record “arrived at my door with no press info, no web info, and no prelude.” Sadly this one was published in Pitchfork - where it counts most these days. The writer concluded, “I'd say seeing Vietnam in a crowded, low-ceilinged bar with a bottle in hand would yield a much fuller experience than listening to the album in your living room. As of this writing I'm putting down PBR #3, and that five-point-oh rating is starting to feel a little harsh.” Along with the positive reviews, which were ecstatic, Vietnam continues to employ this hilarious final sentence in their press pack to this day.

At the beginning of 2004 the band finally made it to the West Coast, playing with Brian Jonestown Massacre in Los Angeles. They returned home with a small buzz, a manager, and an opening slot for BJM in New York a few months later. They continued to play regular local shows as they geared up for a tour to support the record. And, once again, they chose to move in order to save money for the trip.

go back to p. 4, brotherly love | go forward to p.6 , b.f.e.




© New York Night Train , 2006