Year of release: 2016
Following the outcry over cultural appropriation, Canadian post-punk group Viet Cong acknowledged their mistake in this uber-sensitive era, changed their name to Preoccupations, and have dropped a new self-titled record. Bassist/vocalist Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace have been stringing together cacophonous noise-punk since their 2008 debut under the Women moniker, and in a way, last year's sublime Viet Cong LP was a way of dealing with the death of guitarist Reimer. Now, they've given their sound a more booming electronic edge, cleaner vocals, and less murky arrangements, while still sounding very much like the band we know and love, no matter what name they go by.
There are times throughout Preoccupations, where Flegel, Wallace, and guitarists Scott Munro and Daniel Chistiansen channel a bit of Danish punk rockers Ice Age's sense of austere coldness; with nihilistic lyrics, synthesizer drones, and propulsive rhythms taking center stage. So cryptic and incomprehensible/ encompassing anxiety Flegel croons on opener "Anxiety", a primer for the kind of dark romanticism which hits its peak on the 11-minute opus "Memory", featuring Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner. On the whole, the record is more approachable than last year's self-titled Viet Cong release, but no less ambitious. The music here is stark and brooding, but also melodic and at times, downright danceable. Taking a page from the 80s post-punk movement, particularly bands like Psychedelic Furs, Preoccupations remain true to their wild, messy energy while expanding their normally insular sound to a wider canvas.