Vietnam give new meaning to the phrase, “I was in the shit.” Here we have four bearded, longhair types from Brooklyn (sigh), who live in, like, a commune (oh boy), subsisting on a diet of cigarettes (just guessing) and some ’70s rock reco—no wait! That’s the whole problem. These guys think they’re ripping off Derek & the Dominoes, but they’re actually jacking the Black Crowes; they don’t sound like the Velvet Underground, they sound like Brian Jonestown Massacre, like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This is nothing like the oft-cited Spaceman 3. Taking Drugs to Make Music That Sucks is more like it.
Vietnam was cut in Los Angeles—100 percent analog, broseph!—which is fitting, as not since George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone has an LP sounded this hamstrung by the devil’s dandruff. In his naively toe-curling Dylan-goes-electric dickless yawp, Michael Gerner sings about characters he must have seen in a Scorsese flick: “Money and class are just a pain in the ass for me/But if you stick it up my nose, I sniff it up and glow in the ecstasy.” Easy now, Rimbaud.
Throughout, guitarist Josh Grubb slathers on the reverb the way shitty cooks use too much butter, sounding more like Eric Johnson than Eric Clapton. You almost have to feel bad for the folks who showed up to sing (why, Jenny Lewis?) or play organ and horns; the rhythm section, at the very least, can keep time. “Gabe” approaches a boogie, but it also contains these soon-to-be notorious lyrics: “How many times can a man slip through the floor/And man, how many times can a man ask ‘Once more’?/And tell me how many answers do you have, señor?” If you stripped away all of Vietnam‘s contrivances, you’d be left with nothing but tape hiss, ’cause, like, it’s fucking analog, señor.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 16, 2007