Veritas Est Rock

Paul Karner

VeitNam seemed to be riding on the edge of destruction since their conception in 2002. Soon after the release of a poorly received debut EP the band earned their expulsion from their first tour and their first record label.
Nonetheless, the years spent with no money, no professional support, and sometimes no electricity are deeply ingrained in the songs on the band’s newly released self-titled album on Kemado Records.
The songs on “VietNam” are echoic of Neil Young’s sprawling laments with the “hey man” spirit of a Bob Dylan record. There is a sense of musical nostalgia in the raw sound of the instruments on the record, which was recorded entirely analog at L.A.’s Sunset Sound Factory where bands like the Stones, The Doors and Led Zeppelin have recorded.
VietNam is the illegitimate lovechild of Michael Gerner and Joshua Grubb, which they have both clung to and nurtured as though it was their last hope for survival. The chemistry between these two musicians is electrifying. There is a constant interplay between Gerner’s brusque untamed vocals and Grubb’s rich and refined lead guitar. The balance between frustrated unbridled angst and thoughtfully constructed songs gives VietNam its real beauty.
The band uses simple blues forms and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll progressions as a foundation for most of the songs on “VietNam.” The second track, “Priest Poet and the Pig,” breaks out into a barreling blues that seems as though it’s going to burst at the seams with Gerner’s wavering yells.
The songs themselves serve as rather basic points of departure for the kind of antiheroic ambitions this band has penned up. The tried and true musical foundation affords the band a remarkable amount of freedom to severely push the envelope with regards to their punk-bohemian tendencies without sounding too abrasive.
Gerner’s lyrics are just as compelling as the music, yet they bring an added sense of anxiousness and frustration to the songs. The music itself is rather warmly nostalgic and Gerner’s smoky matter-of-fact vocal stylings serve to remind us that, for better or for worse, we’re living in the 21st century.
In “Too Tired” Gerner yells, “Honey, I don’t give a flying fuck if you wanna save me,” and subsequently asserts his free-spiritedness as a means of his own personal revolt, though the odds may be insurmountable. In “ApocLAypse” Gerner muses about apocalyptic dreams – “Don’t cry, woman . The end of the world doesn’t come every week.”
Much like the Brian Jonestown Massacre or a band like Jet, “VietNam” seems to occupy some indefinite space in rock history. The question arises with retro’s undying chic, whether this kind of music can be heard as anything more than a pretentious reaction to the current rock scene. It’s a proactive question, but I don’t really give a flying fuck, and I don’t think VietNam does either.