PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Preoccupations: Preoccupations

John Amen
Photo: Alessio Boni

Preoccupations offers a multilayered synthesis of some of the finer moments of rock music’s past.


Preoccupations

Preoccupations

Label: Jagjaguwar
US Release Date: 2016-09-16
UK Release Date: 2016-09-16
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Formed as Viet Cong in 2012, the Canadian band released their debut in 2015 and changed their name to Preoccupations in 2016 following a minor controversy involving their initial moniker. Their follow-up eponymous album builds on their debut (also eponymous; if they change their name again, perhaps they can release Eponymous 3!), further showcasing the band’s ability to integrate noise, post-punk approaches, and quasi-improvisational drone jams into a cohesive gestalt. With the new album, the band additionally utilizes melodic and dream-pop elements, forging a complex and multifaceted sound that may well appeal to a wide range of listeners.

The opening track, “Anxiety”, begins with a trebly hum that swells portentously, conjuring images of sterile laboratories and robot sentinels standing about with automatic rifles. At approximately one minute into the song, Matt Flegel establishes the lyrical tone of the album, invoking “a nightmare so cryptic and incomprehensible”. As we’re drawn into an inhospitable sonic cosmos reminiscent of Spectres, Swans, or Hookworms, however, melodic flourishes surface that wouldn’t be out of place in a Joy Division, Broken Bells, or TV on the Radio recording. Throughout the song, regardless of instrumental fluctuations in tone and volume, the vocal remains constrained, even monotonous; occasionally, as the piece unfolds, echoing nuances of Iggy Pop.

The album builds on the foundational hybridizations accomplished on the first track -- avant garde, noise, and dream-pop elements reconfigured and dynamically blended. The second track highlights Mike Wallace’s electronic-sounding drums, a storm of swirling and concentric atmospheres, and a vocal that reminds me of Kiss Me-era Robert Smith or “Berlin Trilogy”-Bowie. With the third track, “Zodiac,” Flegel channels Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, the band’s mechanized rhythms and synthesized subtleties cresting over his vocal.

The long track, “Memory”, is a more focused study of noise, industrial rhythms, and dream-pop melodies. The instrumental segment is exemplary post-punk / art-punk, reminiscent of a jam you might hear at a Cloud Nothings show and illustrating Preoccupations’ absorption and recasting of such bands as Television and Sonic Youth as well as noise-pop pioneers My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The lyrics suggest a European sensibility, a possible tip of the hat to Dan Bejar:

Necessary but against your better judgment

you are being overcharged in a market square

Overwhelmed and it’s coming from all angles

you are entertaining the idea that it wasn’t fair.

And later: “I can’t remember where we were / where were we when we all went under?”

On the closing song, Flegel’s vocal reminds me of Bowie’s vulnerable articulations on his swan song Blackstar. The synthesized and hooky instrumental progression, meanwhile, is exemplary late '70s / early '80s Brit-pop a la Human League or Duran Duran. Concurrently a metallic and fuzzed-out ambience transports the song into prog-industrial realms, the piece ending with the repeated lyric: “You’re not scared / carry your fever away from here”. In this way, the album follows a thematic or conceptual arc, albeit represented sonically (lyrically to a lesser degree); the contained and paralytic “Anxiety” seguing into the explorative stases and flux of the middle tracks, the set culminating with the sober but still transcendent “Fever”.

To be widely influenced, yet to absorb and reconfigure these influences in such a way as to assert a unique or signature style is itself an art. In fact, the ability to be derivatively original or originally derivative may be one of the primary aesthetic bars for (pop) artists in the 21st Century. Consider Animal Collective that so effectively combines and revamps such influences as early Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, Daft Punk, and Moby. Certainly Sam Esmail’s hit USA show, Mr. Robot, is a prime example, a singularly contemporary and topical vision crafted from such clear sources as The Matrix, American Psycho, and Fight Club.

With their sophomore release, Preoccupations offers a multilayered synthesis of some of the finer moments of rock music’s past, a potent coalescence of disparate sources into a memorable and standout project -- creatively navigating the relationship between derivation and originality.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.