Douglas Martin’s never had a name change.
Throughout their various permeations of both name and personnel, Preoccupations have more or less always embraced their dark side. Unlike many of their peers both past and present, theirs is not breezy music for Saturday afternoon barbecues or Sunday morning brunch. Over the past handful of years especially, there has been an, ahem, preoccupation with gothic post-punk. The dark shadows and greyscale color template are unavoidable on songs like “Continental Shelf” and “Silhouettes.” The band erstwhile known as Viet Cong doesn’t necessarily come with fangs or black eyeliner, if the core of their music was a physical space, you’d probably need to explore it with a flashlight.
“Anxiety” is not particularly anxious, nor are the lyrics a rote explanation of the affliction, but the solid minute of drone which opens the track is an accurate musical rendition of what it feels like: A persistent, high-pitched tone lasting a little too long for comfort. Eventually the soft ring and sparse buzz makes way for a two-note bassline and a steady beat, an even-keeled push accentuated by the light decay on the edges. Matt Flegel’s voice rumbles in a grievously low register.
Instead of a clear underlining of the how and why of an individual case of anxiety, Flegel’s lyrics string together an unsettling variety of feelings: bad dreams, claustrophobia, the fine art of second-guessing oneself over every detail, “a jaded need for some astonishment.” It’s the kind of lyric crafting that describes the feeling instead of offering an easily digestible, cookie-cutter scenario; it provokes a feeling rather than acknowledging it. Many songs take a picture of the front of the house rather than exploring the interior.
Anxiety is more often than not about just one thing, but about everything hitting you at once until you can barely stand it. All of these things are going on inside of you while the world stands still before your eyes. “Anxiety” captures that essence by artfully investigating its meaning separately through its music and lyrics, sidestepping the surface and really thinking about how it affects someone. In more ways than merely the band’s name, Preoccupations—a pretty cerebral band throughout its various stages—are becoming even more thoughtful than ever.