Share the Derivative Stash

VietNam (Kemado Records)

By Andrea Hunt

While VietNam is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., its members' provenances are elsewhere, which permeates VietNam's sound. Its founding members, Michael William and Josh Garrett, are native Texans. They're from Austin, arguably the cultural epicenter of the state, but just as even the most cosmopolitan Louisvillian lets slip the occasional "y'all," William and Garrett tell on themselves with the band's outlaw country/blues and rock/Southern rock sound (plus a little punk) and sans souci rebelliousness.

VietNam is a composite of every nameless act my parents dragged me to the Paducah riverfront to hear during the sweltering summers of my childhood: artists paying (often weak) homage to Sticky Fingers/Let it Bleed-era Rolling Stones, .38 Special and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Fortunately, though, VietNam can truly rock. They honor these artists properly and in doing so, come across as a band to listen to in a smoky bar (or an eerily smoke-free bar), not an aural-torture device to use on a whiny, petulant teen. However, while drawing from every movement based on the premise "Forget you and your rules, man," they seem to rebel only against U.S. drug laws.

While the album throws in some surprises - like the plinking piano on "Mr. Goldfinger" - VietNam sticks to its renegade roots: scratchy and steely riffs abound; "Priest Poet & The Pig" is fueled by drummer Mike Patrick's driving, relentless snare that simulates a train thundering across the arid Texas landscape. At times, the rasping vocals sound almost painful. Frontman Michael William reaches for grittiness that isn't quite there, but given the band members' candor about their drug use in interviews, it may be only a matter of time before he sounds like he has sand in his vocal cords.

William really does frequently beseech the listener to enter his room ... but why? Perhaps this is the most intimate and honest request a native Texan and likely free spirit can make: a metaphorical invitation into his world. But he may merely hope the listener will share his or her stash.

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