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Issue #58 - The Protest Issue



Sep 13, 2016 Preoccupations Bookmark and Share

The four members of Preoccupations could make a strong case against the argument that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Scattered public roiling over their former name Viet Cong spread farther than expected and threatened to derail the group just as their instinctively carved brand of post-punk was mounting mass appeal. All of the attention focused on an ill-considered choice in a name overshadowed the caliber of their music.

Now that the controversy has been shed, due recognition of how good they are can take its proper place at the center of discussion. Emerging from the chaos with their most fully realized work to date, Preoccupations expounds on the dense, sinister sound of last year’s Viet Cong through dexterous tempo shifts and poised vocal morphing to lift it from the bog. They lurk, then pounce, then linger in breath. All the while, Matt Flegel’s voice holds attention, riding guitars both sludgy and sparkling, echoing throughout tunneled-in rhythms.

There are times in Preoccupations when you feel as if you’ve been held captive in a basement with a gritty VHS tape of anarchic counter-propaganda footage playing on a loop, and what you want to do is wrest free from their clutches. Then there are shots to the vein like “Zodiac,” which harnesses the power of coursing angst, rather than being consumed in it. There is rejoicing in troubled states of mind. It’s almost criminal that the middle three minutes of the nearly 12-minute “Memory” isn’t a standalone track. It bursts out, revealing glimmers of exuberance out of a battered spirit, before slipping back into a meadow of slow feedback waves of guitar distortion.

It’s the conviction of bands that close their eyes and sink into their indulgences that make them interesting. There is a stout cohesiveness that gives Preoccupations a feeling of completion and resolute artistic confidence and its reverberations mount with close and repeated listens. Not to mention, the album art is really cool. Welcome back guys, glad you saw it through. (

Author rating: 8/10

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