First-night nerves and new wave with PREOCCUPATIONS

Preoccupations, photo by Mikala Folb/backstagerider.comLet’s get this out of the way first and be clear. I didn’t like the name Viet Cong. And I’m relieved they changed it. It was the right thing to do. But even that process was protracted, and in media interviews, the band showed little empathy. So I started to dislike Viet Cong, not just for the name, but the graceless way in which they navigated the protest with what seemed like a colossal shrug and giant mumble. I know they harboured no planned ill will. And I liked the music. I still listen to Joy Division, after all. But it was tough aligning the fact that I didn’t like the band, but I liked the band.

But here we are and the not so distant past is just that, and here are Preoccupations. And with a new name and a new album named after the new name, I decided to give them another chance because, growth, right?

Preoccupations, the album, is decent. It’s less mouth-full-of-marbles muddy than before and I love the layers and grit, the synths and the stress and the dark, new waven-ess that remind me of sticky club floors,’”Underpass” and the vibe of this actually excellent compilation Only After Dark. But I’d never seen Preoccupations live. Until now.

And what to report? Not much I’m afraid. On the first night of their lengthy North American and European tour, a thinner-than-expected Vancouver crowd were treated to excellent songs sadly lost and reverberating in a cement block room; the nuances and twitches of “Zodiac” and “Anxiety” (two of the best on the new album that singer Matt Flegel ) sounded sludgy instead. The first half of the set felt like an extended band practice with the guys tweaking and chatting to each other between songs like “yeah, nah that didn’t work, we should try this instead”, and if I’m not mistaken, maybe I am, we were treated to a few brief flashes of nerves. Still. Understandable. The whole album’s about angst. Would if I could see them 10 shows in and relaxed into the flow in an airy room, I’d wager the show would be different, better. There were moments that Preoccupations made me re-like them. And I’m happy for that. Hope they are, too.  \m/

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