First up we had Women and once that band imploded we got Viet Cong and now we have Preoccupations which is basically the new name for Viet Cong. If last year's previously self-titled record is anything to go by this will be another strand of magical avant rock from the Calgary crew. They specialise in tight and taut compositions with incredible musical interplay that makes you wonder really why anyone else bothers.
4 reviews. Add your own review.
My new theory: Chris Reimer was the guitar magic. Pat Flegel brought the noise. Viet Cong… got lucky? Having departed from the Women moniker with the band’s rhythm section and two new recruits, the Calgary buzz band made two pretty phenomenal punk miniatures in ‘Cassette’ and their self-titled, riding high off an imitation guitar tone and the gorgeously shambolic riffs to match. You could hear Women in Viet Cong, alright, but they were brushed up, the clear-cut production shining a new light on Matt Flegel’s first-year philosophy student nihilism. At least the guitars were still good -- at least the drums were phenomenal. It worked.
I loved ‘Viet Cong’, largely because it reminded me of Women and offered their hooks up more generously -- often that was at the expense of the subtleties, but these songs took on a huge, chilling feel unlike any other banner indie rock band of the past few years. Having since changed their name to Preoccupations, the band seem to have taken that grandiosity to heart, veering into a new wave post-punk discipline with refrigerated synths and lyrics that speak to life and death at the bleakest. A moody post-punk record? Gosh, we really needed another one of ‘em, didn’t we.
It sounds like Flegel’s been absorbing Ceremony, Iceage and a bit of the Cave alongside his synthwave. His vocal, having depreciated in value by about as much as the pound on Brexit day, wails and warbles while trying to keep a knowing baritone in check. It bubbles over the plodding opener “Anxiety” and forgets itself on closer “Fever”, the second line of the very first chorus coming in like a kid reading nervously to the classroom. It no longer feels like the very thing holding together a record of churning chaos, instead turning the record to pantomime.
Many of these songs will remind you of things this band once did, but worse: “Memory” is three tracks at once, albeit stitched together with some bona fide foolhardiness: one-part sparkling post-punk, it eventually fades into an entirely separate song and then resolves on a drone so abstracted from proceedings you wonder what its purpose is -- though, on an album about the meaningless nothing and nowhere of all existence and non-existence, I guess it’s silly to ask. “Stimulation” shines with its gorgeous array of the Police-like chord striking and urgent, old-school Viet Cong riffs, but it feels like one piece of a bigger picture standing alone: where this gorgeously fast bluster might have previously outro’d a tune like “Death”, here it dives in and out of a record that feels tangential in relation to it.
It’s weird listening to a record so underdeveloped from a band usually so authoritative -- the vignettes that begin to dominate the record amount to little of anything, establishing patterns, knocking them up a gear and then awkwardly fading them out as if they were just soundclip samples. It’s like listening to an entirely different band, at times, depleted of the atmosphere and the way it was constructed. Which is fine, I guess. But even as a bleating and bleak post-punk record about every numb feeling you've ever had, this feels like the interlude to something more.
7/10 Chris Customer review, 22nd September 2016
It isn't all that bad.
Despite two poor and pointless songs, Sense and Forbidden - which fades out at 1:30 when things actually start to get interesting - the rest of the album is a good listen. Anxiety and Degraded carry the same rhythmic, melodic dread that was perfected on Viet Cong, and Stimulation and Fever are definitely poppier offerings compared to the band's previous output, but hold their own. It does sound like Daniel Christiansen has been taking some guitar tips off The Edge or the Editors at times, and this record does definitely lean too heavily on moody synthesizers and drum machines to carry it through, but there are moments of the band's previous greatness that do shine through.
I can't decide if the band were trying too hard or too little here. Did they want to make a more accessible 'radio-ready' album or were they just not bothered enough to produce something as a totemic as their previous effort? Either way, they don't quite pull it off. It's too depressing for the radio (no song called Monotony is ever going to reach no. 1), and too disco to really be depressing (listen to the mid-section of 'Memory').
All that being said, it's a decent record. My expectations were set perhaps impossibly high for what this album would be, but if this was the debut of a band no one had ever heard of, we'd probably called them promising. Here's to hoping that promise hasn't dried up quite yet.
4/10 Coolant Customer review, 19th September 2016
When good bands go bad episode 305.
How could they go from last years brilliant self titled debut to this plodding drivel? Also another question. Why has arguably the best guitar band on the planet dropped their brilliant intuitive intertwining playing and instead picked up awful synths? Final question, why has the singer turned into a fourth rate Peter Murphy?
At it's best it's like an ok Interpol which is fine until you realise that Interpol haven't done anything relevant since 2001. You might get some enjoyment out of the churning guitars and steely post punk atmosphere that sits it somewhere between Joy Division and Sisters of Mercy. Then you remember these were the guys from Women....and Viet Cong.
And then you despair.
4/10 James Customer review, 15th September 2016
Yep i'm a big Women and Viet Cong fan but they've dropped a right bollock here. Utter shite. Lets hope their old sparring partner Chad VanGaalen comes to the rescue before long i have a sneaky feeling he was the genius quietly pulling the strings all along. Anyone looking for a natural follow on to 'Viet Cong' should use the money they was gonna use from this and check out the superb latest Cold Pumas 'The Hanging Valley' which seems to have criminally gone unnoticed. One of the best British gee-tar bands knocking around these days in my humble opinion.
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