There’s a lot to be said for angry music. And VietNam is one of those wonderful pieces that demand your attention while raging against what they imagine as a desperate, fearful world. Set amongst the PVC coral lighting of the Glasslands, VietNam (Michael Gerner’s returned rock band) is a seven-person dust-bowl-post-punk piece. With an extra percussion set, an electric violin, and a Moog, VietNam relies on a high-volume sound to achieve their goals.
They opened the night’s performance with what you might imagine as a song from Blade Runner, a dark, foreboding combination of synth and strings to set a very specific mood. But during the third or fourth song, I began to think of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. VietNam manages to play a sort of mirror-universe version of the pop ensemble’s storytelling and conversational style, all while expressing a fair amount of personal pain. And whereas the Magnetic Zeros can easily fit onto the porch of any sorghum farmhouse, VietNam only seems appropriate at the edge of the desert.
The band’s lyrics draw on tragedy, mostly as an unavoidable or undeniable force in the world; “We don’t know where the fuck to go” and “I’ve seen fire in a dead man’s eyes.” There are definitely horror elements to the production, but it never feels melodramatic or even approaching the fetishism of some metal bands. Gerner uses the lyrics to complement the tone of the music and his arrangement. A lot of the songs rely on a crescendo structure, though thankfully, they don’t indulge like other power-type bands. The crowd consistently kept their heads banging.
While the first half of the show focused on a more straightforward approach, the last half of songs were a lot more roughshod and unstructured. Thankfully, the doubled percussion kept the sound cohesive, along with some impressive bass. I also took the time to listen to their new album, A.n A.merican D.ream, and the difference between live and recorded was striking. While production values are a large point of departure, I found that their live energy goes above and beyond, even eclipsing most of the songs on the record.
VietNam is capitalizing on some of the current anger and brooding amongst our generation, but they also refrain from over-dramatizing their struggle. Their brand of rock is exactly what they intend to produce, and it’s pretty beautiful.