Hopelessly nostalgic but pleasant enough for heavy drinking, Vietnam's self-titled full-length debut is a trip back in time. Singer Michael Gerner's inflections will immediately remind you of Bob Dylan, but don't be deterred, he does it convincingly. These 10 grimy blues-rock numbers are straightforward with excellent guitar tones and solid rhythms. Fans of Dylan, The Band and Lou Reed and newer acts like My Morning Jacket should be pleased.
"Step on Inside" starts the album with a pulsing bass/piano note joined by a spoken piece. The meager arrangement eventually gives way to a heroic chorus of punctuated drums, gorgeous strings and background soul singing. For a second, it's big in that Pink Floyd kind of way. The next few tunes demonstrate the brilliant sequencing of the album. Between the cohesive sound Vietnam has developed over the past five years and all the dynamic twists within each song, it's sometimes hard to tell when tracks begin and end.
"Mr. Goldfinger" brings you to the campfire and the barroom with singalong lines like "Money and class are just a pain in the ass for me." Josh Grubb joins on vocals, and he's got the same whiskey-soaked rasp that Gerner does. If they wanted to, they could make an album of barroom chants. Vietnam is a bit too forlorn for that much camaraderie, though, but in a good way. Fit for a late night with a few close friends and a mess of booze, this album will make you feel like the outlaw you always wanted to be.