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Preoccupations
Preoccupations
Flemish Eye / Jagjaguwar

Less than two years have passed since Viet Cong launched their smashing, self-titled debut album. Then, half a year ago, the band officially went for a name switch after certain controversies due to their Viet Cong name. Enter Preoccupations. Enter Preoccupations.

The Canadian quartet counting front-man Matt Flegel (bass and vocals), multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro (guitar and synth), Mike Wallace (drums) and Dan Christiansen (guitar) continue their quest deep into gloomy, post-punk landscapes. Preoccupations keeps running along on the same track and platform as Viet Cong stopped by. Maybe with a little less doom, with a tad more upbeat rhythms. Like a switch from late Joy Division to early New Order. Slightly, but far from precisely as Preoccupations does not sound like New Order. This time around, the record, with its nine tracks (of which two are really short, and one is quite long) clocks in at some 38 minutes, which is a fitting length for an album.

It's been said that when they wrote and recorded this album, the members of the band were 'in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. ...[they] all moved to different cities.' With all these changes in mind (including the band's name change), we're up for expecting quite a different approach, attitude and expression. Some things have changed, yes, but the basic song writing and instrumentation are stabile elements - the sound of the band is merely the same as before. They do sound somewhat more restless, as the rhythms are more frantic than earlier. The metallic guitars shimmer and shine, while Flegel's voice surf the songs with its mixture of melody and sneer. The slow starting, gliding "Anxiety" sets the mood as the band enter their dark world of 'different' pop. Post-punk pop with a grin. "Monotony" continues the trip into darkness with a poppy feel to it, while the catchy, majestic "Zodiac" appears as one of the album's true gems. The rhythms, the guitars and the synths are both hypnotic and dizzying. The long-stretched "Memory" is quite possibly holding all the memories from the past - the past they left and shifted from, personally and privately. "Memory" is a long flight through the shadows of a long night, filled with blurred memories of recent former lives - 'left behind' or turned away from - fading in several instrumental minutes. The synths are central in colouring the moods and adding flavour to their melodies. As does the often-screeching guitars and steady, pacing drums. The album holds a 'narcoleptic pace' according to Jagjaguwar. Their label describes the new album as 'a blast of cold air in a burning hot place.'

All in all, Preoccupations is a fascinating listen. Maybe as fascinating and comforting and cold - even colder - as their previous album. The album starts with "Anxiety" and ends with "Fever", which are fitting key words for describing Preoccupations' musical and stylistic mood and energy. This is even more of some different kind of tension. Holding friction, style, monotony and repetition. All done with a balanced, controlled temper. The album 'proves what's punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass.' Check out the steady yet rapid pulse and the cold fever of Preoccupations. Blistering stuff.

Copyright © 2016 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

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