By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
Key Tracks: “Espionage”, “Manipulation”, “Doubt”
Calgary-based post-punk group Preoccupations have certainly found themselves on a creative streak these last three years – having now released their third full-length album in said time. Ever since the band rebranded themselves back in 2016, (having originally gone by Viet Cong before changing amid controversy), there was more that came with it besides the name change. Their latest release, New Material, showcases Preoccupation’s step in the right direction as their most focused album to date.
In a statement, frontman Matt Flegel described the LP as an “ode [to] depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” New Material is an expansion of similar concepts from their previous records; portraying the demons that plague our inner-selves and purging them. These chaotic themes are mimicked in its sound, which can be heard in the opening seconds of the album as the hollow clashing of metal fills the air, before being drowned out by the 80s-like sounds of guitar and synth, followed by Flegel’s warm vocals (“Espionage”). This kind of style continues beyond the album’s opener, including the deceivingly titled track “Disarray”. Its repetitive chorus of the word might have bleak meaning, but to Flegel, its suppose evoke positivity. “Those lyrics for me were kind of cathartic and made me feel good by the end of it. That’s our version of positive, a song called ‘Disarray’.”
By delving deeper into the album, listeners will eventually realize a glaring problem. Certain tracks rely too heavily on building off of rhythm loops, especially in the first half which comes in the form of a mandolin in “Decompose” or percussion in “Antidote”. However, as the album progresses and enters a more industrial sound in its second half, these light and airy rhythm loops are replaced by deeper, heavier basses and synth patterns that become less annoying and easier on the ears, as evident in the album’s final two tracks, “Doubt” and “Compliance” which make for a satisfying conclusion.
This issue shouldn’t deter people from listening to this album by any means. New Material easily serves as Preoccupation’s best album to date, setting themselves up to even higher standards than before. Keeping up with the trend, it should be expected that their next full-length LP will be even better.