A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
Record Label: Mute
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Contrary to popular belief, sometimes you can’t control how loud the music you listen to is.
Exhibit A - It doesn’t matter if you have the speakers turned up to a Spinal Tap-like 11, Elliot Smith’s tunes still sound delicate and intimate.
Exhibit B - A Place to Bury Strangers is crushingly loud even at low volumes and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. The New York shoegaze act is unrelentingly noisy, and on Exploding Head the sonorousness is in full effect.
The band has a huge sound for a three-piece, including some cavernous drums, but the key is the guitar work. It is all over the place on songs like “Everything Always Goes Wrong,” featuring otherworldly clashes and moans covered by heaps of distortion. These sounds should not come as a huge surprise considering singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann’s day job is building custom guitar pedals. He puts his craft to full use on Exploding Head.
As is the case with many shoegaze groups, A Place to Bury Strangers’ lyrics tend to get lost in the shuffle. Some songs like “In Your Heart” dabble in the distant and cold emotionality often associate with industrial music, but that’s about it. Then again, poetic prose is clearly not what the focus of the music is supposed to be.
There are, however, a few things that clearly set the group apart from their peers beyond simple loudness. For one thing, A Place to Bury Strangers has… how to put this? Cojones. There's a bit of a bite and energy about songs like “Dead Beat” that isn’t necessarily typical among artists like this. The band doesn’t hide timidly behind the wall of distortion they build up. The other thing that sticks out is a sense of melody. “Keep Slipping Away” and a few other tracks are, dare I say, danceable. The idea seems almost taboo for a group like this, but it’s true. Much of this stems from bassist Jono MOFO’s melodic lines that are slightly reminiscent of Krist Novoselic’s in the way they sneakily ooze a pop vibe while the guitar and drums make their own chaos.
For those with a more melodic poppy background, A Place to Bury Strangers might make for a good introduction to the world of shoegaze. It bridges the gap between the lull of the genre and the rest of the musical landscape. Just remember to bring earplugs.