Review Summary: We play the life secure with give and take.
The mood of a record can go such a long, long way. Many attempt to create such works that thrive simply based on its vibe, while writing material that can hold up on its own. In doing so, the end result tends to be diverse. It could be incredible, absolutely abysmal, it could even be the blandest sounding piece of music known to man – you get the idea. Canadian post-punk rockers Preoccupations live for creating music that is firmly rooted in its mood. From Women onward, to 2015’s Viet Cong
, their music always
incorporated specific moods into their works. Dark, hazy, brash, and at some points nimble; these words all encompass Preoccupations and their music. A very notable aspect of their music is their admiration for post-punk legends, most notably This Heat. These bands’ influence lingers within Preoccupations’ ethos. In last year’s Viet Cong
, the presence of This Heat, Deceit
in particular, hovered over the album. Whether it was the entirety of ”March of Progress”
or the disjointed, atonal cries of ”Newspaper Spoons”
, the album unashamedly used its influences as its strength.
Fast-forward a year later, and what do you know" Preoccupations bring out another album that not only goes in a different direction, yet still borrows from influences of the past. Whereas Viet Cong
was very much a guitar-driven record, Preoccupations
takes a swift left turn into the realm of the synth. It permeates each second of the album in some way or another, adding another dimension to the band’s guitar-driven soundscape. Influences, as mentioned before, play a huge part in the material presented here, and like before, are used as a strength rather than a crutch. The one-two punch of ”Anxiety”
bring forth faint remnants of Peter Murphy and Bauhaus, whether it be the murky production that gives the songs its character, or the increasingly coarse vocals of Matthew Flegel that are reminiscent of Murphy at some points, whether it be the first movement of ”Memory”
, or the standout track ”Fever”
. The band, as usual, sound quite in tune with each other in spite of the change of direction, and it’s this that makes the new sound work so well. Yet, for the positives, come some rather off-putting negatives that hinder any progress Preoccupations could possibly make.
To say Preoccupations
is a safe record is an understatement and therein lies its greatest flaw; whereas its predecessor had a sense of danger, this in contrast, hardly takes any risks aside from its new sound. The songwriting hasn’t changed one bit, which is not necessarily a bad thing, yet the execution this time around is haphazard in some segments, whether it be a poorly done drone section in ”Memory”
that just feels like a cop-out finish that subsequently kills all momentum the song had; or the vignette duo of ”Sense”
that tease the listener with interesting pieces of music that hardly last long enough to leave any impression whatsoever. It just makes the experience slightly frustrating because the potential is definitely
there, yet it’s wasted because it feels like Flegel and co. can’t be bothered to flesh the compositions out any further. Preoccupations has the right idea, yet with its follow up to Viet Cong
, has missed the mark ever so slightly.