Preoccupations, formerly Viet Cong, are a Canadian four-piece that rose from the ashes of indie rock darlings Women. Where Women was more in the vein of bands like Deerhunter and Pavement, Preoccupations went for a more darker, propulsive sound. From their ‘Cassette’ ep debut to their self-titled full-length as Viet Cong to name change to Preoccupations and their last full-length New Materials in 2018, the band has been on a trajectory to post-punk legend.
The foundation of the band is the bass/drum bedrock of singer/bassist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace, while guitars and synth touches are handled expertly by Scott Munro and Daniel Christiansen. The band locks in together making striking modern post-punk that sometimes is reminiscent of Joy Division, Bauhaus, early Cure, and Mission of Burma. But they add their own touches that hit on pop and Gothic rock elements.
On Arrangements, Preoccupations newest album and first since 2018s New Materials, there’s no deviation from the formula. The self-produced album propels the band further, honing their songcraft and musicianship to a jagged edge. Bristling guitar lines, hypnotic rhythms, and moody synths added for texture, Arrangements is another engaging and sonically adventurous turn.
“Fix Bayonets!” bristles with energy and even a strange sort of positivity. Big drums, propulsive guitars, and Flegel’s vocals are delivered like Michael Stipe in an “It’s The End Of The World” manic stream-of-consciousness. It’s the perfect album opener, really. Loud, propulsive, and the kind of song that begs for volume and your attention. “Death of Melody” has more Gothic undertones, bringing to mind Pornography-era Cure and Bauhaus. There’s also touches of The Soft Moon. “Ricochet” sports some serious drum work courtesy of Mike Wallace. This is the proto-Preoccupations sound; jangly guitar, rock solid rhythm, and slight synth touches that brings the song from the brink to something resembling dream-like.
The centerpiece is the 7 1/2 minute “Advisor”, a dark and foreboding track that sounds as if it’s emanating from some hazy dream. Strings swell, electronics click and clack, and Flegel’s vocals emanate from some Jungian pit of psychosis. A little over halfway thru we rise from the doldrums to something resembling early 80s post-punk/new wave attitude.
Preoccupations have always kept true to their core sound of flanged bass lines, bristling guitar, synth touches, and powerful drumming with cryptic vocals that lie somewhere between a croon and a howl. That while their formula remains intact the vibe of each record expands and demands us to look into the abyss with equal parts plead and disdain. Arrangements is another stunning slice of post-punk and jaded new wave from one of Canada’s finest.