Foxygen – Hang
Canadian post-punk outfit Preoccupations’ story is built on new beginnings. They first emerged under the moniker Viet Cong after the dissolution of bassist/vocalist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace’s band Women and the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer. But the new name would raise its own share of issues. While their self-titled debut received good-to-glowing reviews, the name itself came with an ugly history of racism and the band was accused of cultural appropriation — despite that never being their intent. Following criticism, the band admitted their fault in judgment and changed their name to Preoccupations.
Most bands don’t get the chance to make a self-titled record a second time. If you count Women’s 2008 debut, Preoccupations will be Flegel and Wallace’s third eponymous record together. While Flegel’s guttural croons and guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen’s jagged riffs are all still there, they’re being implemented in a new way. And, the new name is quite an apt descriptor for where the band is now: Preoccupations the album is Preoccupations the band dealing with their emotional preoccupations. These are songs about the thoughts that plague your mind, distracting you from what’s right in front of you.
Understanding Preoccupations is easiest when setting it against Viet Cong. That record was marked by claustrophobic arrangements. The drums boomed like they were being filtered through a concrete wall, thudding off-kilter against the murky guitar distortion. It was the sound of a band working their way through the void, trying to find some light to lead them out. Preoccupations does away with the murkiness, sounding remarkably clear in contrast to its predecessor. But this newfound clarity doesn’t bring peace, it sheds light on new insecurities. It’s like coming out of the water and seeing the shore on fire. Just being able to identify the issues in front of you doesn’t mean they’re resolved.
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