Preoccupations: New Material (Jagjaguwar) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024  


New Material


Mar 26, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The picture on the front of the new album from Preoccupations looks like the kind of thing usually found in a brightly lit, sparsely furnished modern art gallery. There’s a striking, industrial feel that draws the gaze through circle, triangle, and square. It’s also more interesting than nearly anything on New Material.

This is the third album from the Canadian post-punk outfit, the second after their name changed from Viet Cong to Preoccupations, and the first not to be named after the band. Continuing to record as Preoccupations is unfortunately apt in this instance, because it’s easy to lose focus listening to a series of flat tracks meandering in and out.

Too often there’s a subpar post-punk feel, scraping together an Interpol baseline here and a Joy Division riff there. The intricate complexity that marked the previous two albums doesn’t seem to come together here, struggling to reach the dark, coiled up sounds unspooling on Viet Cong and Preoccupations.

There’s nothing noticeably bad about any individual element. The musicianship is as accomplished as you’d expect, and Matt Flegel’s distant vocals could have echoed straight from 1970’s Manchester. The problems come when the elements are combined. New Material is certainly not more than the sum of its parts, which causes problems for a band that thrives on the whole, rather than moments of individual magic.

It leaves much of New Material ambling by. Only near the end on “Doubt” does a track sit up and call for attention. Suddenly, this gloomy, labyrinthine experience develops, like walking into a haunted house run by Edgar Allan Poe. With Flegel repeating “the cells divide/and multiply/and multiply/the cells divide and multiply” the music builds and builds, and when it ends, it demonstrates what the rest of the record is missing. (

Author rating: 4.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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