Let me just start this review off by saying that this album is not for the faint of heart. This music is heavy and it’s not for everybody but I love it and that’s why I wanted to share it with anyone who’s willing to listen.
This is my review of Preoccupation’s album, Viet Cong.
Preoccupation, formerly Viet Cong is a band from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The drummer and bassist of this band are former members of the Albertan band, Women, who went on hiatus in 2010 and disbanded in 2012 after the death of their guitarist Christopher Reimer. Women are similarly an acquired taste. Wikipedia describes this band as “labyrinthine post punk” which is certainly a closer description than I can get to of their musical style, so let’s go with that. When I think off this album I always associate it with a dystopian sort of sound, but I don’t even know if that makes sense, either way, let’s get into the actual album and we can figure this all out.
What an opening song this album has, Newspaper spoons, is the first song on the album and with its opening lyrics “Writing, violence, essentially without distortion” you can kind of understand why I associate this album with a dystopian theme. The song itself opens with booming drums and a jagged guitar riff. The singing almost feels like a brainwashed man chanting out to a crowd. The sound is overwhelming and, to be honest, a little off-putting. But I think the aggressive sound is intentional because about halfway through the song, in the background of the music you can start to hear a light melody. As the booming drums and jagged guitar fade out and the vocals stop the melody grows louder until it’s all you can hear and by the end of the song the only thing you are left with is this gentle melody that lulls you into a docile state.
The next song on the album, Pointless Experience (note the dystopian theme) picks up right where the last song left off. It takes you out of the docile state and thrusts you forward into the organized chaos that Preoccupations is so good at making. I love the repetitive drumming in the intro and how it hints at a ‘pointless experiences’. But what is so interesting about this song is the just, frankly, disgusting violence of it. This is a very dark song and with chorus of the song and its lyrics, “failed to keep the necessary paper’s for evacuation, hideously synchronized with cold and cruel arithmetic, we’re desperately debilitated, if we’re lucky we’ll get old and die” you can feel the intense bleakness Matt Flegel is trying to impart.
One thing about this album that is fascinating is that it pushes you into the dark, chaotic side of the human condition with no hesitation.
The next song on the album, March of Progress, starts with the bands own sonic march of progress after which the song is taken over by a light, stringy strumming of the guitar that evokes a manic sense of joy, which seems to be all but hollow when paired with the song’s lyrics which seem to be an indictment of humanity as a species and it’s self important view of its own evolution.
The dark poetry of the next song, Bunker Buster is just impressive; in just the first verse we get these lyrics, “ Go Where, go where fluorescent primates teem and wind through the neon screens that scan over muted lips on Japanese ships.” I could devote an entire blog to just pouring over the lyrics in this song, but I think that might bore some people so I’ll just stick to the album review. Again this song has very jagged guitar sound. One of the great things about this song is that it flows so well. When the band is repeating the second verse and then they move into the bridge and lead singer Matt Flegel leads the band into ramping up the volume until the end of bridge when he seamlessly brings the energy back down to sings the lyrics “…tell me where you came from”. It just sounds perfect.
Continental Shelf is the lead single off of this album and it might be the catchiest and most traditional pop-punk song on the album, I have to admit that it is my favorite. I really do love this song, from the heavy distortion that plays in the background of the verses to the beautiful background vocals of the chorus, which seem to be juxtaposed against each other this song just works. The lyrics seem to be about the singer’s anxiety and how large the damage is to his psyche in the chorus we hear that edges are “falling off themselves” or how “Water is draining off the continental shelf”. This seems to imply that enormous damage is being done.
On Silhouettes, Matt Flegal is giving us some more beautiful poetry that needs to be noted. These lyrics seem to be relaying some sort of warning about an impending doom, or maybe just the fear of one. But the lyrics aside, the music itself is so entertaining, the keyboard synth and the traditional piano interchanging in the background of the song work perfectly together. And in the last 20 seconds of the song when Flegel is belting out his ah’s and oh’s and the synth comes in over top of it you can feel the impact of the band’s intensity.
The seventh and last song on this album, Death (aptly named) might just be the origin of Wikipedia’s description of Preoccupations as ‘labyrinthine’. The song, which apparently started as just a way for the band to jam together, clocks in at eleven minutes and seventeen seconds. The songs winds in and out of different paces and speeds and it sort of encompass everything the band has to offer on this album, Flegel’s attitude on humanity, his dark poetry, the distortion, the noise, the repetition, this song has it all.
This album was hard to review, it was hard to just wrap my head around. If you listen to it and find that you are into this sort of stuff, that’s wonderful and if you listen to this album and it’s revolting then you probably shouldn’t have read this review, but just no it’s complicated music, so give it a chance.
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