Sisters of Mercy fans rejoice as ominous people Preoccupations delve further into the bowels of the early '80s goth-rock scene. Their previous album was the worst thing we've ever heard and after struggling to sit through lead track 'Espionage' hopes for this are low. However these are people who were once very great indeed so you never know.
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Preoccupations. What happened? There's rarely been a moment in my life when I've felt so disappointed as I did when I listened to their debut self titled album. You see, I loved Women, then I loved Viet Cong. The strange thing about Viet Cong was that despite only featuring the rhythm section of Women they initially continued that band's remarkably original skewed rock with duel de-tuned guitar twang as though Patrick Flegal and Christopher Reimer (and producer Chad VanGaalen) weren't missed at all.
However it seemed like this was a sort of seeping through of the old bands sound which, when they changed their name to Preoccupations disappeared almost completely and was replaced by a kind of by numbers post-punk with keyboards obliterating the previous glorious mesh of guitars. The inventively titled 'New Material' appears as a swift follow up and would initially seem to be an attempt to right the wrongs....until you hear opener 'Espionage' which is an absolutely awful dirge of Sisters-of-Mercy-in-a-wind-tunnel goth rock nonsense. I can't even bear to have this on my headphones, all I can see in my minds eye is big hair, shades and bandanas. 'Decompose' too is completely forgettable. Grey indistinct post punk sludge - could be anyone - forgot it was even on.
But there are a few green shoots of recovery here . 'Dissaray' presents us at least with a memorable guitar hook one part the Edge, one part John Mcgeoch and a blistering tune that lingers in the memory long after it's departed but too often Preoccupations sound like they are going through the motions, Matt Flegal's vocals never really convince. They are there for sure, I can hear them but what are they actually doing. Tracks like 'Antidote' are a disjointed mess and lacking in any kind of real dynamics, the sound compressed so hard that the whole thing is just ill-fitting sludge.
Preoccupations are best when they remember what they are actually good at. This is defined by 'Solace' where a driving, taut tune is spangles over by masses of skirling guitars skittering around the track as Flegal barks away. I lived through too much dry ice in the 80s to be able to take power ballads like 'Doubt' seriously, less Joy Division more the Mission getting all overwrought on our asses though closer 'Compliance' bring some overloaded My Bloody Valentine style guitar scree which are wonderfully intense.
'New Material' has the odd incendiary moment but mostly continues the trajectory they were heading on with their self titled debut. The title says it all about this record - it's the sound of a talented band just getting the job done and nothing more which is sad because Women reinvented how indie rock sounded. Preoccupations are content to be another retro facing darkwave rock band and merge into a crowded market rather than standing head and shoulders above it.
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