I’ve seen this band a couple of times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen Preoccupations. I won’t rake over old ground, but this band have been through the mill a little bit of late, having to change their name from Viet Cong when people started complaining, not only in the press and on social media, but at their gigs too. This was on the back of some of the members old band Woman falling apart pretty acrimoniously…have a Google for it all, it’s an interesting story. They’re the only band I know of that have released two differently titled self-titled albums, and their latest, Preoccupations, released earlier this year is a real doozy, all claustrophobic, angular guitars, post punk, new wave brilliance. Tonight they make their Manchester debut at Gorilla as Preoccupations, and even though it’s a Sunday night the back room is nicely busy, the crowd misted by dry ice (makes me wonder how much dry ice I’ve inhaled in all my gig going years…that’s for another day), listening to classic Motown songs over the PA.

The 4 piece come on stage and immediately start their discordant noise – something that rarely lets up throughout the entire set, even in between song, launching straight into the opening number from their new album ‘Anxiety’, Matt Flegal’s deep bass voice filling the room, layers of guitars and synths making for a claustrophobic atmosphere that lives up to the songs title. Even though it’s probably the coldest day of the autumn so far outside, it’s pretty sweltering in the corrugated iron shell of Gorilla’s back room, and  the band’s floppy blond haired drummer Matt Wallace removes his shirt after ‘Anxiety’ to play topless for the rest of the set, and boy does he earn his money; it might be the single most impressive percussion performance I’ve ever seen. Him and Flegal on bass drive the band forward, and when the intricately drummed opening of ‘March of Progress’ starts up, it’s unbelievably mesmerising, Wallace hammering out the snare and tom tom rolls over and over for around two or three minutes, snapping his arms and head back at each new repetition as Flegal strikes at his bass; it’s a joy to behold. The song bursts into life, the band swathed in warm yellows and oranges, the crowd settling into the groove the band have found, it’s intense and impressive.

When one of Flegal’s bass strings snap and he has to go off stage for five mins to fix it, Wallace and the rest of the band remain on stage, improvising away with guitarist Scott Munro, never dropping a beat. As Flegal returns, the band launch straight into perhaps their most well known song ‘Continental Shelf’, a taut masterclass in new wave post punk that brought attention to them back in 2014. The band are so muscular, constantly propelling forward around Flegal’s guttural roar of a voice – seriously, sometime he sounds like a black metal singer – the guitars and synths breaking through the murk of noise to provide focal points of melody, it’s absolutely brilliant. ‘Monotony’ (‘this repetition will kill me’) and ‘Memory’, the heart of their new album, are particularly great. However, they save their best for last, with ‘Death’, a song that lasts 11 minutes on record and is extended out here to a good 15-18 mins.

The first act of the song turns Gorilla into a post-punk disco, the bifurcate guitars intertwining around each other creating a rhythm it’s impossible not to get lost in. Then they go instrumental, Wallace pounding away on his kit, Flegal striking one note over and over on his bass as they slow down to a funereal pace, each vicious strike of the drums accompanied by noise struck out of guitars not heard this side of My Bloody Valentine; it’s loud, it’s dramatic, it’s stunning. As the band slowly pick up the pace and head back to the disco, the mesmerised crowd whoop and applaud a very special performance, one that leaves everyone wanting more but ultimately satisfied by the incredible musicianship on show. One of the shows of the year without a doubt.

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