New Zealand in the 80s, among its many acts, had Vietnam, who were active from 1981-85 and are back after a long hiatus, with a new album called This Quiet Room. Previously they had released their debut, self titled album back in 1985, so this makes This Quiet Room their second album ever, making it a long time between drinks but some things are worth waiting for. The guys are older, maybe a little more world savvy but still full of passion. Making up the band are Shane Bradbrook (vocals), Cranston Brecht (guitar), Barn Coren (guitar), Geoff Lerwill (keyboards, piano, organ), Joe Neufeld (drums, backing vocals) and Adrian Workman (bass, bass VI, guitar, modular synths, piano, backing vocals).
All up there are 12 tracks for your listening pleasure here…. well 11 as “Leon” is this odd bridging piece of what sounds like an audience in a pub. “In Another Desert” sets the whole tone really, where the raucous pace picks you up and those wonderful guitar lines ring out at you. I hear lots of influences within, such as the Billy Bragg like “I Once Said“, and a cover of “Kidney Bingos” by Wire, which also has a Johnny Marr edge to it. Magazine could have written “What Have I Done“, which is also one of my favourites, and the reflective “Do It for You” and “It’s All Around“, with its swelling chorus. There is the much more poppy “Always Hotels” and at the other side of the spectrum is the almost darkwave “Whispers To Ignore”. The plinking bar piano and smoky ambiance of “Lost In The Flame” could be Portishead, while the ghost of Australian band Hunters And Collectors inhabits “Truth Vs Love“. It is actually the last song on the album that is the latest single, called “Where Is My Happiness?“. A lament about being let down by those that never should, and yet the the guitars are light in opposition to the lyrics.
Australian and New Zealand music scenes in the late 70s and early 80s were very intertwined. There was the very Antipodean sound coming out of the post-punk purveyors of the time, with bands traveling the Tasman Sea to tour and many New Zealand bands eventually settling in Australia. At a time when most bands were coming from the South Island, giving rise to the Dunedin Sound, Vietnam were from Wellington on the North Island. Obviously in the 80s, the members of Vietnam were unable to keep the band together at the time but now, post-punk is seeing a great revival (though for some of us it never went away) and many great bands of the period are seeing people take interest in their music again, making it easier to reach an audience. This Quiet Room has the wonderful jangle and exploding with dark exuberance. The atmosphere created by Vietnam NZ is joyous nihilism with good solid songwriting and years of honed practice. Have a beer, a dance and turn up This Quiet Room.