Without artifice or the slightest whiff of a scene, Vietnam bravely set up shop in the shadow of some great American artists: Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground. Vocalist Michael William bears Dylan's influence to the tipping point, borrowing certain line cuts and a half-mumble/half-twang that almost, but not quite, sounds like imitation. Many of the songs -- wry, dirty, twisted cross-country tales filled with sentiments thrown like punches -- rise to the literary level, like Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" if it had been written with whiskey in the tea. The aural scenery gets tightly clipped around the lyrics; clearly, this is an album that's not meant to be absorbed only as slick surface rhythm. The hazy maze of blues riffs adds a magical level of disorientation, with dense musical details that make the members of Vietnam more than just lazily crowned poet laureates for having read a few books. Dylan isn't sacrosanct to me, and neither is his generation. Regardless, there's no reason these Philly-by-way-of-Texas boys shouldn't be the next band to be big, bold and beautiful.
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