Review Summary: A deep breath of submission has begun.
The post-punk revival (as we know it) has been raging on for well over a decade now. For better or even worse, the revival has seen an increased flow in legacy imitators and "back to basics" aesthetics coming forward, although this is not the best direction for the genre to go in; but where exactly does Preoccupations stand in the midst of the great, big revival and the ever-so-trendy New Order-aping that many groups undertake" With their first record under Viet Cong, the band took after the more primal and abrasive textures of groups such as This Heat and Bauhaus; whereas with Preoccupations
, they undertook a stylistic transformation and became (roughly) the bastard son of The Cure and New Order fused into one. New Material
does little to change the idea that Preoccupations has not a single original idea left in their bag of tricks, but instead continues on from where Viet Cong
left off with the synthetic sheen of Preoccupations
to boost the once-paper thin synth-driven coldwave into more bruising, gloomy affairs.
As per usual, the defeatist way of thinking is Preoccupations' way of thinking, always taking on the role of the all-fearing and deeply cynical and emerging from the experience further embittered and resigned to the weary ways of life itself. On a record that is a so-called "ode to depression and self-sabotage," New Material
weaves a web of deceit, self-hatred, and finds several ways to project its cold, pessimistic ways onto you. There are moments where this mechanical nightmare the band paints is convincing, but often we are presented with lyrics that are borderline cliché ("It's easy to see why everything you’ve ever been told is a lie") or laughable ("Information overdose, looking for antidotes"). Preoccupations clearly tries their best at creating their own version of a Orwellian dystopia where information is heavily controlled, humanity is reduced to nothing, and little hope remains. But when getting down to the bare essentials of what makes Preoccupations, and by extension, New Material
tick, it becomes more apparent that they are running low on original ideas – we've already heard songs like "Antidote" and "Disarray" before, albeit in various other forms; we've heard a dozen other songs where the band expresses a highly cynical and negative point of view; and we've certainly heard these songs from other bands (that may or may not have had influenced Preoccupations).
Weirdly enough, New Material
is not a departure from their brand of gloom-and-doom jams, but is instead both a step forward (in accessibility) and backwards (in uniqueness). The third time around, as relatively middle-of-the-road as it is, is where they've come closest to perfecting their formula; for the mediocrities it contains ("Disarray," "Antidote," "Doubt"), it also features some of the finest works since their anxious debut with "Manipulation" and "Decompose." On past records, Preoccupations often played the part of the antagonistic prophet, warning of a world gone to hell all the while kicking and screaming; New Material
pictures the prophet resigned to the united fate of the world, one destined for ruin. Sometimes, the protests we're presented with are aggressive and full of vigor ("Espionage") or are filled to the brim with agonizing torment ("Manipulation"). We are asked to forget our narrator, to hate them, and to oblige their desire to no longer exist.
is an album that achieves a lot, but accepts failure as an option and takes it with a begrudging grace. So much can be made out of the stories told in the album's songs, but with the general lack of ideas, the role of the doomsayer is running its course for Preoccupations. One can beg the question of whether or not they'll ever return to the paranoid chaos of Viet Cong
, but it's a safe bet that it isn't likely; however, it's more likely they'll be back with another record of songs eerily similar to the ones you've heard already.