Now more than ever, the lessons of the past feel like the lessons of today. In 1980, post-punk visionaries Ski Patrol released “Agent Orange,” a politically-charged tune condemning the atrocities committed by United States soldiers in Vietnam.
Today, in 2020—30 years following the release of “Agent Orange” and 45 years after the official end to the Vietnam War—goth pop unit Vision Video have released a darker, heavier take on the song.
Vision Video’s take on “Agent Orange”—which features writing and production credits from Clan of Xymox guitarist Tom Ashton—is decidedly heavier and darker. The mechanical drum and bass section is still there providing a rigid backbone, but Vision Video have added a lush atmosphere to the simple song.
The production on Vision Video’s version of “Agent Orange,” courtesy of Ashton, brings the rich synthesizers and melodies to the front, and vocalist and guitarist Dustin Gannon brings a more dramatic and rock-influenced feel to the song.
“Agent Orange” makes a heavy social commentary, linking the war crimes of the Vietnam War to today’s civil rights movement, but those bold lyrics are a key part of Vision Video’s music. Their last single, “In My Side,” showcased Gannon grappling with the harsh reality of his life as a soldier returning home from Afghanistan.
“‘Agent Orange’ was a song that I stumbled across a couple years ago when I was writing the initial material that would eventually become Vision Video. I remember the bass line and atonal guitar dissonance immediately drawing me into this bleak and familiar theme of the horror of warfare, which was something I had been acquainted with myself in Afghanistan a few years prior.
“The song perfectly captured the visceral, gut-punched feeling of foreboding doom that I very much felt when I was involved in that war myself. Once Vision Video had formed, we had talked about trying a couple covers, and this Ski Patrol classic just immediately drew into mind. By this time, we were a couple of years into the Trump administration and it dawned upon me that this living nightmare was also paralleled (albeit in a different way) in the current American political landscape.
“The pointed lyrical allegory of “Agent Orange” as the chemical weapon used in Vietnam connected well to the current U.S. President undeniably: a caustic, disease-causing agent that has destroyed lives and will continue to do so long after it is gone.
Vision Video’s version of “Agent Orange” is streaming exclusively through New Noise.
Follow on Spotify to hear more.