Preoccupations: Arrangements LP
The Calgary post-punkers, Preoccupations, are back with a new full-length release. This is the band’s first album in four and a half years, their longest break between releases. The writing for "Arrangements" began in 2019, however, like many plans, the process had been delayed by the global pandemic. It’s curious to think what the pandemic has done to the band’s psyche. Musically and lyrically Preoccupations has always been a band which focuses on the impending doom that will befall earth and humanity and "Arrangements" continues that dark manner of thinking and perhaps takes it even further. The bleak lens that Preoccupations view the world with has an even darker tint to it. Following on from "New Material", which was a little more synthesizer based, the new record centers around the discordant wailing guitar that we’ve grown to know and love from Preoccupations. Although the album only consists of seven tracks, there is more than enough interesting material to keep you occupied for its duration.
The opening track “Fix Bayonets” starts off with an intense machine gun snare drum whilst vocalist and bassist Matt Flegel ushers in the self-destruction of the human race with a smile on his face. The wailing guitars are almost siren-like and the drumming continues in intensity throughout the song. After all, the destruction of our species is never going to happen calmly. “Death of Melody” continues the dystopian feel of the first two tracks but is even more mentally deranged, which was Flegel’s exact intention, “It’s about having a song stuck in your head, and having no idea what it is, and driving yourself to the brink of dementia trying to figure it out.”
“Slowly” is goth-friendly and perhaps the most enjoyable song on the record. A patient build-up eventually crescendos into dramatic chaos of sharp, reverberated guitar. However, as soon as you expect the next segment to push the song over the edge it suddenly ends in a washed-out groan. “Advisor” is a little under eight minutes long and feels like a journey across an industrial landscape. The intro has an otherworldly drone, which sets up the song’s overall tone quite nicely. It is a steady burner that eventually turns into a heavier shoegaze song with darkwave elements sprinkled in it. Although the industrial sound palette, spikey guitars and lyrical content usually attract the most attention, the straightforward drumming throughout the record keeps the music in check and stops the songs from rambling into an incoherent jumble. The finale, “Tearing up the Grass” is very driven and there is quite an obvious comparison to "Low"-era David Bowie. It is a strong final song and has powerful energy which is a testament to how tight the band are.
"Arrangements" is a step in the right direction for Preoccupations and the seven songs that comprise the album showcase the band utilizing all of their strengths. The music is never structured typically, nor is the musicality, and this alone gives the listener plenty to consider, regardless of it being quite a short album. There is no cathartic release or any messages of hope, instead, we are left with mild anxiety and a realization that we might be closer to the end than we think.
Chartreuse vinyl in full colour sleeve with printed inner sleeve.