New band name, new album, new tour, same reliably bleak outlook on life. It’s nice to have Preoccupations back.

The group, formerly known as Viet Cong, had a roller coaster of a year in 2015. Their self-titled album was a masterpiece of moody post-punk precision, earning plaudits as one of the year’s finest releases (it was this guy’s favorite record of 2015.) The band toured relentlessly behind the album, playing increasingly larger and more prominent venues.

However, the Calgary-based quartet (which includes former members of the now-defunct Women) ran into trouble by their poorly-thought decision to name themselves after a violent guerilla group. After receiving backlash and having some dates cancelled, Viet Cong announced they would be changing their name.

Following months of deliberations, the group opted to rebrand themselves as Preoccupations, a moniker with significantly less historical baggage. Earlier this week, the newly-christened band announced plans for an extensive worldwide tour in support of their upcoming self-titled album, due for release on September 16. Preoccupations also released a video for their first single, aptly titled, “Anxiety.”

Like their earlier work, “Anxiety” is a brooding, melancholic number, although in place of the spiky, angular guitars from their debut LP, this song is filled with portentous synth lines and clanging metallic background noises (which actually recall Women moreso than any of the band’s past work). There are moments of levity, like when fluttering keyboards interrupt the unforgiving industrial nature of the song, but those instances are fleeting. Bassist/vocalist Matt Flegel opts to sing in a lower-register delivery for this song, further adding to its austerity. It’s a frightening, mesmerizing, and strangely-accessible creation. In short, it’s vintage Viet Cong/Preoccupations.

The band is set to hit to road for a five-month tour in support of their new album, including two stops in the Bay Area. The first appearance will come on August 29, when the band opens for noise-rockers Explosions in the Sky at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Preoccupations will return two months later, for a headlining date at the Independent on October 29.

Preoccupations, Methyl Ethel
The Independent
October 29, 2016
9 pm $15 (21+)