Preoccupations – Arrangements – Album Review
by Killian Laher
The much maligned post-punk genre has become something of a cliche in recent years, with a plethora of bands with brooding atmospheres, jerky rhythms, and a lead singer with a great big deep voice. One of the better bands of this nature, Preoccupations returns for their first album in 4 years after the somewhat underwhelming New Material.
It opens with the crashing synth-pop of Fix Bayonets! While not the strongest thing here, its big-hearted bluster introduces the album well, and yes, Matt Flegel sings with one of those voices. Ricochet is thrilling, like someone lit a match under them, mixing their brand of moody post-punk with Duran Duran of all things. A bit like a dark-as-fuck Rio, it’s one of the poppiest tracks the band has released, previously they may have been a little too uptight to record something like this.
Death of Melody plods agreeably, with a bass-led melody, over which Flegel flexes his rich croon. It’s not the most instant track, but it burrows its dark sound into your brain. Slowly opens with a pacy, Sisters of Mercy-evoking bassline which continues through the song. The production is superb here, with keyboards, bass and drums all balanced out.
The last three are the real meat of the album. Advisor groans slowly into view with a bassline that takes plenty of time to unfurl, before being joined by some violins. After three minutes of this, the bass picks up the pace and the song kicks into gear, ultimately exploding into Flegel’s impassioned vocals as he sings “put it into a box, smash it into the rocks”. What a seven and a half minutes! It’s followed by the searing slab of gloomy Recalibrate before the final, immersive Tearing Up The Grass. This is a triumphant belter of a workout, Flegel singing “the place we’re looking for isn’t on the map anymore”, evoking Bowie’s darker moments, the track ending with an uplifting flourish.
While not reinventing the genre, Preoccupations push it forward with its complex songs. It’s hard not to hear the Joy Division influence but they somehow turn it into something new. A highly effective soundtrack to the shorter days to come this time of year.