I get it. Preoccupations’ previous name sucked, in a pretty big way. It made people angry, made them call for action, and demanded some kind of recognition of wrong.
I can also get how fraught the prospect of starting over can be, and how destructive that process can be on the individuals involved, and the band as a whole. Spin doctors will counsel that ‘no comment’ is the best comment publicly, but just because there’s no outward sign of inner turmoil doesn’t mean it’s not actually happening.
I’m not suggesting we take pity on Preoccupations. As a band, they freely chose to put themselves forward in the public eye under their previous name; in doing so, they assumed responsibility for the consequence of that choice. But me, I am forever a giver of the benefit of the doubt, an eternal optimist. In making choices in life, both positive and negatives ones, we earn opportunities to learn.
I make no assumptions about what it is exactly that Preoccupations learned from the consequences of their previous band name. They don’t owe me or anyone else a rationale behind their original name and its change. And yet, with just its title, let alone the first few lines of “Anxiety”, there’s enough suggestion: “With a sense of urgency and unease / second guessing just about everything / recollections of a nightmare / So cryptic and incomprehensible / Encompassing anxiety”.
“We ripped songs down to the studs, taking one piece we liked and building something new around it. It was pretty cannibalistic,” explains Preoccupations’ Scott Munro about the process that’s brought about their forthcoming self-titled album. “Anxiety” is the product of a band eating itself in order to start over again, a process some of its members are all too familiar with after their band Women disbanded. So while the title and taut, rigid rhythm of “Anxiety” suggest unease at its outset, the song settles into a contemplative, familiar refrain of angular guitar drone, industrial moodiness, and Matt Flegel’s unflinchingly frank vocal delivery. Ending far from where it began as a minutes-worth of shapeless noise, you get the sense that “Anxiety” is just but one small step along the evolutionary line Preoccupations are on.
Their journey boiled down to three possible routes: keep the name and stay the course; disband and discontinue making music together; or change their name and proceed onwards. Preoccupations made their choice. How you respond is yours. I’ve made mine.