Preoccupations – New Material (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 36:07 minutes | 424 MB | Genre: Alternative
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Jagjaguwar
Preoccupations have never been afraid of ripping it up and starting again. They had to when they changed their name from Viet Cong, and the transformations continue on “New Material”. This third full-length release for the Canadian post-punk quartet was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnson.
The band went into the studio with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen with just a few lyrics and took a more collaborative approach to songwriting, and the leap they make on this album is greater than might have been expected. Instead of taking the scenic route to get under listeners’ collective skin like they did on Viet Cong and Preoccupations, this time they take the express. With Meldal-Johnsen’s help, they bring the hooks they used to submerge in noise and pregnant pauses to the fore, honing their songs into undeniably catchy crises. The producer lends New Material some of the big ’80s slickness he gave to artists like M83, and at times the band nods to past greats like the Psychedelic Furs and Bowie while giving contemporaries such as Cold Cave and Future Islands a run for their money. However, Preoccupations are too restless to be merely retro. Instead, they use the album’s lavish production to give their songs about coming together and falling apart a newly anthemic scope without losing any of their intimacy. These are some of the band’s most affecting, and accessible, songs yet: “Espionage” jumps right in, full of nervy percussion and shout-along, us-against-them choruses; “Disarray” is a gorgeous celebration of collapse, with Matt Flegel’s repetition of the title in the chorus eloquently conveying a complex mix of chaos, sorrow, and beauty. Likewise, “Solace”‘s beautifully tangled guitars and oddly liberating refrain of “No one wants us anymore” sound like finding moments of joy in the face of inevitable defeat.
Even when Preoccupations return to their meditative side on New Material, these moments feel more distilled. The grinding pace of songs like “Manipulation” and “Doubt” taps into the way the band grappled with emotions in an almost palpable way on their previous albums, while “Decompose” gives their mystical tendencies a purposeful momentum. Last but not least, “Compliance” closes the album with the kind of instrumental brooding that might have been part of one of Viet Cong or Preoccupations’ epics, but has more than enough impact to stand on its own here. Another evolution in the way Preoccupations bring poetic soulfulness to post-punk, New Material lives up to its name – it’s not just another batch of songs, it’s a fresh approach that feels like a breakthrough.
01 – Espionage
02 – Decompose
03 – Disarray
04 – Manipulation
05 – Antidote
06 – Solace
07 – Doubt
08 – Compliance