Preoccupations always were too good to be marred by controversy.
Released: September 16th 2016
There are many reasons a band might change their name, and who can say what might have happened if Seymour never became Blur, if Rocket Baby Dolls hadn’t found their Muse or if On A Friday hadn’t switched to Radiohead? For Preoccupations, change became a necessity when they started getting hate mail and losing bookings in their prior incarnation, Viet Cong.
Back in April, the band said they were “happy to… move on and focus on our music”, and it’s obvious from the off that Preoccupations want to wipe the slate clean. ‘Anxiety’ heralds their rebirth, a clarifying wash of sound followed by thunderous grind of fuzzy bass and drums. Previously buried in the mix, Matt Flegel’s gruff vocals are centre-staged and dark (“recollections of a nightmare/so cryptic and incomprehensible”), but a high synth refrain scythes through the post-punk smog like a break in the clouds. It’s an effect repeated by the crisp, guitar lines running through ‘Monotony’ before ‘Zodiac”s insistent synth bass and production-line clank and clatter.
Time away and renewed focus seem to have suited Preoccupations, and if the touches of near-psychedelia peppering their debut have vanished, the echo-laden early ’80s sound is a great fit, particularly on centrepiece ‘Memory’, moving from moodily optimistic jangle (“you don’t have to say sorry/for all the things you failed to do”) into uptempo Big Music, all hooky, melodic bass, quickly dissolving into distant metallic drones and endless echoes.
‘Stimulation’ is equally compelling, invigorated by chiming, alternately spidery and slashing guitar, while ‘Fever’ piles Eno-esque synth and guitar lines on top of each other into a metallic, shimmering wall before fizzing out.
Whatever their name, Preoccupations always were too good to be marred by controversy, and in places this is a stunning return. Get ready to give it your full attention. Rob Mesure