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Preoccupations, no longer preoccupied 

The post-punk band — formerly Viet Cong — performs at Gasa Gasa Oct. 19.

click to enlarge preoccupations.jpg

Say what you want about the wisdom of four white guys from Calgary naming their band Viet Cong — even in this Age of Trump, with our collective sensitivity meter perpetually spinning, it seems especially inappropriate. But the action did have two effects, desired or otherwise: First people noticed, then they reacted. Gigs from Ohio to Australia were canceled; one music website posted a timer with the headline, "Days since Viet Cong promised to change their name." And so the artists formerly known as Viet Cong (half of whom were formerly known as Women) have settled on the least offensive handle possible. Preoccupations puts the focus back on the music, while proving the band's noisy causticity runs deeper than any album cover. The self-titled September release (Flemish Eye/Jagjaguwar) also marks an evolutionary endpoint, as the genetic threads that link the three bands — once frayed and dangerous as a downed power line — are sewn up into something less unique but far more accomplished and accessible. Unpredictability connected both Women and Viet Cong, and Preoccupations, working under the recognizably foggy drones of 1980s post-punk, still hides plenty of surprises. "Memory" changes pace and form after a three-and-a-half-minute windup, morphing into a leggy gazelle and a reverberating disturbance over its pop-elongating, eight-minute remainder. Maturation in music often implies dilution, but it applies in multiple ways here: No longer defined by tragic irony, the vandals have found a canvas for their graffiti. Methyl Ethel opens. Tickets $12-$14.

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