Preoccupations - Arrangements Music Album Reviews

Preoccupations - Arrangements Music Album Reviews
Grim, grey, and dour, the Canadian band’s fourth album offers a bleak look at the world and delivers some new textures but lacks some of the musical tension to really create sparks.  

Preoccupations possess the kind of cynicism indulged by a self-serious and self-selecting crowd, the ones who notice society’s inexorable march toward the apocalypse and put on some wiry post-punk to watch it burn. The quartet hasn’t changed the message much on Arrangements, their least severely-named Preoccupations album after two self-titleds and 2018’s New Material. And Matthew Flegel is no more specific than his past doomsaying when he sneers, “Everything tastes like the bitter end” on “Ricochet.” Only now, he’s gesturing to an endless amount of recent natural and manmade horrors that can be called upon to fill in the blanks. Preoccupations’ bunker mentality now seems pretty reasonable.

In explaining the thematic thrust of Arrangements, Flegel joked, “It’s basically about the world blowing up and no one giving a shit.” There are two possible interpretations of this statement—if we’re to take Preoccupations at their word—or at least the militant marching orders they’ve maintained since they went by Viet Cong—the world is blowing up and people should give a shit. But it’s increasingly likely that Preoccupations see our inevitable extinction as the natural order of things, so why fight it? “It’s alright, we can celebrate/The evaporating homo sapien race/That’s racing to erase its brief/And glorious existence,” Flegel huffs in a breathless cadence on the opening “Fix Bayonets!” Note the exclamation point in the title—when was it ever in this band’s nature to be emphatic? But “Fix Bayonets!” convincingly recasts Preoccupations as the house band for a party at ground zero.

This renewed vigor carries over to “Ricochet,” which attempts to unite the streamlined melodies of their most recent work and the grim world-weariness of their best work. There’s always been an element of jangle serving as the sole wisp of color in Preoccupations’ otherwise slab-gray palette, and “Ricochet” unkinks those wire-cleaner guitar figures to imagine Joy Division sticking around long enough to absorb R.E.M.’s take on post-punk. Even at their most accessible, Preoccupations could once only suggest the scope of their reach as a gothic pop band. But on “Ricochet,” Flegel allows himself to get caught up in this bold, brighter presentation, delivering the chorus with a chesty brio, sounding more like a Cruel World headliner than a scrappy indie rock band self-releasing their fourth album. Yet the chorus itself turns anticlimactic, its words feeling like placeholders, misaligned with the ensuing cascade of Mad Max imagery.

Preoccupations thrive in a state of resistance—Flegel’s vocals pushing against juddering, atypical rhythms, Mike Wallace’s drums slathered in icy reverb like he’s trying to punch his way out of a meat locker. The sound of struggle is the sound of engagement for Preoccupations, and so when the band sounds like interlocking, grinding cogs in a rusted war machine on “Death of Melody,” it conveys a greater sense of urgency than any of Flegel’s sincere scaremongering about climate change. Similarly, the synth swells during the first half of “Provider” seem like they’re second-guessing their unorthodox, intriguing tonal clusters, requiring an entirely new set of adjectives for Preoccupations: psychedelic, sultry even. But halfway through, the band shifts to a more standard-issue beat, ultimately denying Flegel’s most impassioned vocal performance the dramatic backing it demands. “Recalibrate” and “Tearing Up the Grass” also toy around with kernels of interesting textures and imagery without creating dynamics that justify the two taking up about a third of Arrangement’s run time. What might be considered a groove more often sounds like a rut.

But perhaps the greater issue lies less with the lack of tension between the four instrumentalists of Preoccupations—once again, there’s the post-2020 caveat that much of Arrangements was created remotely. Rather, while Preoccupations’ message remains honest and earnest, it doesn’t create enough friction to cause a spark. “They’re selling T-shirts at this crucifixion” is a vivid, albeit somewhat trite image, appealing in a sort of Anti-Flag way. Otherwise, we’re in a race to the bottom, the “mediocracy” is ruling the world and there’s little to suggest that anyone predisposed to this sort of music wouldn’t already agree. In fact, Arrangements is so in tune with the current moment that verges on ambient—“I don’t believe that we’ll disappear/If we can’t consistently prove we’re here,” Flegel sings with unintended irony on “Ricochet.” People in persistently foul moods need “mood music” too.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Preoccupations - Arrangements Music Album Reviews Preoccupations - Arrangements Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 Rating: 5

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