An A.merican D.ream

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Shortly after the 2007 release of their self-titled full-length, Brooklyn songwriter Michael Gerner's much-acclaimed rock revivalist unit Vietnam disappeared into the ether. Always made up of revolving players shakily assembled around Gerner's hazy, shambling songs, part of the bands' charm was their volatile nature. After the group's implosion, Gerner vanished to the West Coast, where he spent five years exploring ambient synth textures and scoring films. Vietnam's re-emergence in 2013, seemingly as random as their disappearance, comes in the form of An A.merican D.ream, a sprawling double album and easily the group's finest moment. Steeped always in the New York street grit of the Velvet Underground or early Dylan, Gerner's insane-street-person-sermon lyrics are at fever pitch, riding atop sprawling rockers like "Kitchen Kongas," as well as more mellow looks inward like "Stucco Roofs." The dark, strung-out influence of Spacemen 3 still shows up, as on the slide-guitar stumble of "Blasphemy Blues." Some of those years Gerner spent experimenting with analog synths rub off on the production of An A.merican D.ream, as well, if subtly. The band expanded to include a full-time violinist as well as synth player, and most of the songs are bridged by understated Moog textures. Lyrically dense, the songs are stuffed with imagery that bounces back and forth between apocalyptic dread and stream-of-consciousness rants about murder, panic, everyday living, and a string of larger-than-life characters. Heavy also on profanity, stretches of manic joy, and a perspective so world-weary it almost feels juvenile again, these songs are the boldest statement from Vietnam, and sound like they took years to gestate. Often extending past the seven-minute mark -- listen to the epic "W.orld W.orries" -- Gerner's diatribes are bright with the visceral pain, terror, and redemption of modern life as seen through the eyes of someone too aware for their own good. Much like the most coherent moments of Brian Jonestown Massacre, An A.merican D.ream comes off like an updated version of the walking blues: heavy looks at heavy times, made all the heavier when the narrator is positioned somewhere between genius and mental breakdown.

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