“Windows of Streets and Corners,” the second song on Viet Ruse’s set list, begins at a sedated island pace and ends full of post-punk piss. Drummer Mateo
Arredondo eggs on Myke Miranda and Chris Rocha’s double-edged guitar fight till you practically feel each note slash the air around your face. Miranda’s got the vocal delivery to match, achieving that weird blend of detachment and intensity usually found only on late ’70s art-rock albums. The vintage-store venue might be appropriate, but “Windows” sounds more like the highlight off an obscure record-shop find than indie kids aping the sound of a decade they didn’t live through.
The song’s an impressive synthesis of Viet Ruse’s most obvious elements: golden-age reggae and angular new-wave noisiness. The following song, “Terrorist,” in contrast, stays in the Atlantic, thumped to a rallying point by Omar Nambo’s insistent bass line. It’s only during these slower songs that it becomes apparent the band isn’t moving much at all onstage beyond intermittent feet shuffling. Miranda’s banter is rare and mumbled. “I hear the stock market …” he begins and trails off in a purposely awkward and nonsensical aside. All the energy’s expended playing the faster songs.
“Dresden Release Party” hits with Mission of Burma’s ear-bursting intensity, and Miranda and Rocha’s jangling guitar jams develop with an intricacy that suggests each note has been meticulously plotted out beforehand. Alton Ellis cover “Rocksteady” provides some ganja-scented breathing room. The band’s more obvious reggae riffs are experiments in rhythm mostly, thankfully devoid of the unfortunate Patois impressions and “Irie Irie”s that so anger zombie Peter Tosh.
Closer “Burn the Place Down” is a final sucker punch — an inside-out deconstruction of everything they’ve just played, finding its aggression in reggae and its melody in punk. Pay attention to them.