Preoccupations – Preoccupations (Formerly Known As Viet Cong) (Released 16th September)

£19.99 – Limited indies only transparent LP

 When the Preoccupations wrote and recorded their new record, they were in a state of near total instability. Years-long relationships ended; they left homes behind. Frontman Matt Flegel, guitarist Danny Christiansen, multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro and drummer Mike Wallace all moved to different cities. They resolved to change their band name (from Viet Cong) and their honed, road-tested approach to songwriting was basically thrown out of the window.

 This time they walked into the studio with the gas gauge near empty. There was no central theme or idea to guide the band’s collective cliff jump. As a result, ‘Preoccupations’ bears the visceral, personal sound of holding onto some steadiness in the midst of changing everything.

 Where their previous album, ‘Viet Cong’, was built in some ways on the abstract cycles of creation and destruction, ‘Preoccupations’ explores how that sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-revelatory trap affects our lives.

“ W e dis c a r d e d a lo t ,

reworking songs pretty ruthlessly,”

Munro explains.

“We ripped songs down to the

studs, taking one piece we liked and building something new around it. It was pretty c a n nib alis tic , I g u e s s . E xis tin g s o n g s w e r e kille d a n d u s e d t o m a k e n e w o n e s . ” Sonically, it’s still blistering but it’s a different kind of blister, less the scorched earth of the band’s previous album, more like a blood blister on a fingertip.

 Opener ‘Anxiety’ articulates that tension: clattering sounds drift into focus, bouncing and echoing off one another until one bone-shattering moment when the full band strikes at once, moving from something untouchable to get to something deeply felt. ‘Monotony’ moves at a narcoleptic pace by Preoccupations’ standards but snaps to attention to make its point, that

“this repetition’s killing you / it’s killing everyone.”

‘Stimulation’ opens with a snarl and hurls itself forward at what feels like a million bpm, pausing for one mortal moment of relief before barrelling onward. ‘Degraded’ surprises, with something like a traditional structure and an almost pop-leaning melody to its chorus, twisting the bigness of Preoccupations’ music to sideswipe the clear, finite smallness of its subjects and events. The 11-minute-long ‘Memory’ is the album’s keystone, with an intimate narrative and a truly timeless post-punk centre. There’s love piercing through the iciness here, fighting its way forward in each of the song’s distinct sections.

 As always, there is something crystalline to what they’ve made, a blast of cold air in a burning hot place. All this adds up to ‘Preoccupations’: a singular, bracing collection that proves what’s punishing can also be soothing, everything can change without disrupting your compass.

 Coloured vinyl LP available to independent retailers.





















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