Vietnam The Concrete’s Always Grayer on the Other Side of the Street

[Vice; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: indie rock, sparse rock, post rock
Others: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Lou Reed, Smog, Will Oldham

Naming a band Vietnam will invoke emotions, pictures, and thoughts hard to swallow. War, death, confusion, uneasiness, darkness, candor -- these sentiments are tangible qualities hard to reciprocate in song. During an era many would rather forget, music was the rare fix for a fog no one wanted to be stuck in day to day. The more the soundtrack threw you into the fire, the easier it was to find the way out.

Fast forwarding to the modern age, many of the same temperaments of war and death, darkness and uncertainty are plaguing the world at large. Unfortunately, much of the music being created isn't a testament to these hard times. Then Joshua Garrett and Michael William came along with The Concrete's Always Grayer on the Other Side of the Street. Replicating the grit of a long gone era while celebrating the strides and adventures that punks and indie rockers have taken, the duo known as Vietnam has created a near masterpiece [of an EP]. The highs of sweeping notes and rolling organs accompanying the lows of straightforward songwriting and minimalism mate to become one of the strongest whiskey drinking albums in the past 25 years.

The Concrete's Always Grayer lives up to its hard living, life in the gutter title, sermonizing the good and evils of everyday life with fervor and conviction that only a Baptist preacher or a 1950s Joseph McCarthy could muster. The album is built on the sturdy base of "Makes No Difference," a shining pinnacle of musical malevolence and misanthropy. The ten and a half minute epic wails with scathing lyrics straight from the Bob Dylan letterhead -- that is if he were telling someone off. The sad, slow guitar provides just enough courage to come clean before erupting into a wall of dirty psychedelia and southern rock no one has dared to try for decades. The album's finale, "Lullabye," meanders on the same guitar riff and tambourine beat, creating an uneasy rest that no toddler would be fooled into sleeping through. As the lament slows into the same drunken line, the guitars and drums explode into one last furious fuck off to all who still care to listen.

The small morsel that Vietnam drops with this outing is too delicious to ignore, even if the taste it leaves is bittersweet. When music hurts this good and brings to life a void many have since left ignored or filled with meaningless luxuries, the taste is a small price to pay to enjoy misery and to feel alive again. And your misery will have the company of Garrett and William to guide you through the night, bottle and all.

1. Too Tired
2. Makes No Difference
3. Princess
4. ApocLAypse
5. Lullabye