Preoccupations – Preoccupations | Album Review


The Canadian post-punk band formally known as Viet Cong is back with their first album under their new moniker. And, fittingly, names play a key role in the self-titled pursuit, with each track brandishing a single, distraction-inducing word to describe the instrumental and vocal ongoings contained within. To their credit, Preoccupations has created an album that is through and through a thematically dreadful endeavor. Right from the get-go, the first song “Anxiety” features frontman Matt Flegel repeatedly droning the word “Anxiety” in a back-of-your-head tone similar to the persistent unease during the onset of a panic attack. It is haunting; it is constant. “Anxiety” is the precursor for an entire record where the songs elicit their terse titles.

It’s not just the singing, either. If anything, the lyrics are muddled in Preoccupations’ perpetual low-fi sound. But, be that as it may, songs like “Memory”—with its hard-stop transition into an ambient, airy, fading pulse—evokes the overwhelming weightlessness of floating whilst longing for the past.

“Memory” is the album's anchor. Recorded over almost two years, the shoegazing pocket symphony is firmly planted in the middle of the venture. The first half of the record is focused on the realization of hopelessness, while the second half—the five tracks beyond “Memory”—fixates on coping with what’s next after accepting there’s no going back in life.

The follow-up track “Degraded” wields a simple, rising scale that mimics a feeling of reincarnation, with defeated lyrics like “We’re absolutely obsolete” laced overtop the rebirth. Yet, the album’s second act is noticeably more up-tempo than its counterpart.

The increase in vigor climaxes with “Stimulation”—a fast-paced, full-bodied experience which suddenly cuts to an isolated, heart-racing bass riff where Flegel reminds us “There’s nothing you can do, cause we’re all dead inside.”

Yes, it’s morbid. But the album eventually culminates in the weirdly-optimistic, synth track “Fever.” The mantra: “You’re not scared. Carry your fever away from here.” Therein lies the greatest feat of Preoccupations’ self-titled album: it’s the perfect, end-to-end exploration of the everyday terrors of being alive.

By no means is Preoccupations breaking any new thematic ground, nor do they take any audacious musical steps. But even so, the band encapsulates the journey of hyper-scrutinizing the fleetingness of existence to a T. At face-value that’s a gothic, art-school sentiment; however, if you’re the type that occasionally overanalyzes your own death to the extent that you grow short of breath, Preoccupations has a fitting soundtrack for your next mental breakdown.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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