Womens Christmas aren’t short of modesty when it comes to their songs. Their first EP was titled Tremendous, and the ensuing debut album, Too Rich For Our Blood, lived up to that prophetic moniker. Sleater Kinney’s triumphant Vicar Street show in March was the trio’s previous warm-up slot, but things are more condensed tonight, with a sizeable crowd already in attendance. The band shows consistently how a three-piece can sound immense – on ‘With Sea Legs’ particularly – with bass and guitar entangled in one another, each seeming the lead instrument. When not tethered to the mic Ronan Jackson stalks back and forth, head bobbing as if Wilko Johnson’s taken control of his psyche. By his own admission, he’s not in his finest vocal fettle, but it’s barely noticed in another focused, fuzzed up selection from the first record.
Alberta’s Viet Cong take that same indie blueprint and tear it up, with a more experimental noise rock tenet characterising their sound. ‘Throw It Away’ at first sounds like they’re kicking off like The Clash, but things gradually become more more disjointed, ushering in the spiked guitars that dominate the set. “Mike Wallace needs some more kick drum in his monitor. He also needs a bare ass spanking in front of everyone” says bassist, vocalist and wise-cracking frontman Matt Flegel as they emerge from the first in a set culled mainly from this year’s self-titled debut.
That’s not a mobile phone vibrating in your pocket. It’s the droning, reverberating intro to ‘March Of Progress’, beginning with an abrasive, extended syncopated drums-up-front intro before kicking into double time; an infinitely more rocked-up version than the more psychedelic album version. ‘Bunker Buster’ comes across like At The Drive-In played at the wrong speed, although no less powerful in execution. A final, lengthy ‘Death’ toys with tempo and momentum, clashingly and gradually slowing down; the four men punch out chords and cymbal crashes in tempered unison, and on it goes, hypnotic in its bludgeoning until the stage once more erupts into a double time stomp.
The set proper ends with an empty stage, guitars droning to a halt. The guitarist has broken many of the strings on his 12-string from the previous song’s assault. “You guys are gonna wish you didn’t ask for an encore” says his colleague after a rowdy reception, “this is the only encore we’ve ever done.” What follows is a Television-esque end to a set that doesn’t even break the ten song barrier, but puts more punch in those songs than most bands manage twice over. They came, they conquered. Now let’s see how many people we can spot around town with Viet Cong emblazoned on their chest.