Calgarian post-punkers Preoccupations are back with their second release under their new name since shedding their controversial moniker Viet Cong in late 2015. Irreverently titled, New Material, the album picks up where their self-titled 2016 release leaves off. Descending deeper into the sonic abyss of a despondent post-industrial sound, frontman and bassist Matt Flegel delves into issues such as “…depression and self-sabotage,” while also “looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” The bridge of “Espionage”, the first single from the album, sums up the futility by acknowledging:
Change is everything
But it’s nowhere to be found.
There’s no doubt these fatalistic emotions are woven deeply into the lyrics of most of the songs contained on the album, but somehow sonically the tracks keep it from feeling like a wallowing album of self-pity. A trend they began with their previous album, all songs are one word titles, many of which foreshadow the mood of the song. It’s fascinating to see them as a whole, begging some sort of inference to be drawn from each as if titles to individual poems.
Espionage, Decompose, Disarray, Manipulation, Antidote, Solace, Doubt, Compliance
There’s nothing new in expressing pain through art and music but what I find most intriguing about Preoccupations’ sound is how it evokes a sense of nostalgia while also pointing toward an evolving future sound. It’s like the anachronisms found in the film The Matrix, particularly the rotary dial telephones. Despite their antiquity, they feel somehow futuristic partly because of their function as teleportation devices but partly because the current generation has no real world experience with them. I feel somewhat the same about Preoccupations’ sonic nods to bands that are less relevant with Millennial listeners today. I am passing no judgement here nor am I using the term pejoratively. As a Gen X-er myself, I find great joy in hearing hints of The Chameleons (UK), The Teardrop Explodes, The Comsat Angels, and to a lesser extent Chairs Missing and Pink Flag-era Wire in Preoccupations music. When I listen to certain tracks on this new album, I too am transported. I see moments of my own life from the 80’s & 90’s appear in grainy VHS-like vignettes as soon as the heavily reverbed riffs and vocals of “Disarray” meet my ears, offset and ethereal. These images recede and reappear throughout the album depending on the track. The final track on the album, “Compliance” is another cinematic composition that plays a flickering series of images in my mind as I listen. Regardless of the specific imagery recalled, this album is cerebral and stimulating in ways that I find genuine and evocative.