Though we’re well past the days of the full fledged Post-Punk revival, the sounds from that era never totally left the Indie Rock landscape. Really, they were always at least partially there to begin with – gloomy atmospheres and angular guitars were a part of the scene’s DNA right from the start. That’s a roundabout way of saying that, yes, Preoccupations (née Viet Cong) tend to wear their influences on their sleeve, but that doesn’t bother me as long as the hooks keep coming.
Last year’s Viet Cong was one of the better albums that mined this vein (second, in my opinion, only to Sexwitch’s self-titled), mainly due to the shimmering guitars and long, shifting song structures. When they dropped their old name, Preoccupations also dropped both of those pieces of their style. On the new album, the guitar tends to be buried in favor of dark, brooding synths; all but one of the songs have been pruned to a short length. And, somehow, it still works.
I’ll admit it: the highs aren’t as high as on last year’s LP; they aren’t quite as frequent either. Still, this album has moments of undeniable brilliance. As “Zodiac” winds down, drummer Michael Wallace hammers away like he’s auditioning for Joy Division. “Memory”, the 11-minute centerpiece of the album, could work as a Cliff’s Notes for the Cure: it slides through darkness, through dreamy, ethereal segments, through grimy, grating feedback. The vision that was so apparent on the last album is still here, it just wants you to come find it.
On the way, though, there are a few hiccups. “Sense” and “Forbidden” seem a bit unfinished; at less than two minutes each, they almost seem to have been tacked onto the album for length. Though neither harms the carefully sculpted atmosphere of the album, they also don’t grow and shift the same way the better-crafted, longer songs do. Still, as the album finishes it returns to form. “Stimulation” and “Fever” are as solid as any track on the first half. The latter track doesn’t conclude the album so much as drift by, seeming to echo into another realm as frontman Matt Flegel continues to chant. It doesn’t seem to have the same grand purpose as “Death”, but it stakes out another in its own right, creating a sense of unease that lingers after the sound fades away. It fits – this is an album that lingers; hopefully the band will as well.