Nine tracks stitched together by an amalgam of glassy synths, spidery guitar lines, the distinctive vocals of Matt Flegel and above all a relentless intensity, Preoccupations is a record indebted to an array of post punk influences, but rises above mere pastiche by virtue of the great sense of urgency and impassioned delivery. There are clear signs of progression from 2015’s Viet Cong – this group’s debut (and, for the time, self-titled) LP; Flegel’s vocals have evolved and prove more varied than before, the percussion is no more distinctive a feature but is utilised in a more restrained fashion, backing vocals are included to great effect at times and add real value whenever they are.
‘Memory’ is a sprawling peak, stretching out over 12 minutes and featuring an appearance from Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade. Though tracks of an epic nature are nothing new to these four (‘Death’, album closer on Viet Cong, takes on elemental proportions live), this is unlike anything in this group’s canon, and when Flegel and Boeckner join together on vocals at the track’s mid-point, it’s a huge sounding moment prior to an extensive drone and noise based coda.
This album is not as tightly wound or fraught sounding as Viet Cong, but is still very much a dark, bleak affair, with moments of prettiness interspersed. There’s more room to breathe, room for melody and for focus on the anxiety and air of claustrophobia evident at all times in Flegel’s lyrics. He sings of being “absolutely obsolete”, the opening track on the record is called ‘Anxiety’ and there is an ever present tension simmering just under the surface. LP closer ‘Fever’’s redemptive sounding – if vague – mantra “you’re not scared/carry your fevers away from here” forms the centrepiece of one of the more accessible tracks on this initially somewhat paced but ultimately deeply enjoyable record. This is an evolution rather than a fresh start, but a very worthy one.