ALBUM REVIEW: A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS – Exploding Head

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Reviewed for The Dwarf

Shoegaze is genre that has been going through somewhat of a renaissance in the last few years. On the local scene you have the likes of The Laurels admirably resurrecting a sound that was at its peak when the band were probably still in nappies. Internationally there has been a revival led by acts like A Place To Bury Strangers, The Horrors, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to name a few.

Exploding Head is the second release from A Place To Bury Strangers and it continues their recycling of the harder side of the genre. They prefer cold and dark places, automated emotions and abrasive sounds. Their debut was a more caustic experience so they have allowed some light and melody to emerge through the cracks on this more satisfying follow up.

It Is Nothing sounds like My Bloody Valentine in a roller derby with Swervedriver with its incessant drums and wailing and screeching guitar battling to be heard. Its an energetic and succinct start to the album that is expanded upon in the second track In Your Heart where melody emerges via a soaring riff and Oliver Ackermann’s vocals are more prominent in the mix. They channel Joy Division and they do it well.

Garage rock influences raise their head on Dead Beat with the mangled surf guitar stylings taking it to a more American psychedelic place. That shapeshifting continues with Keep Slipping Away and its early Cure chords again placing their sound back in the UK at the dawn of the 80s. At times it is as if they are trying to cover their formative bases rather than settling on their own sound; though they do it all so well it is hardly a criticism.

So as to avoid any accusations of lightening up, A Place To Bury Strangers load the back end of the album with some white noise distortion and a narcotic haze that perfectly mirrors the black and white TV static imagery of the album’s artwork. Amongst the sonic scree there is the title track which is perhaps the most accessible song on the album. There is a discernible chorus, an infectious guitar riff and a danceable post punk, jerky rhythm.

Exploding Head is a big leap of confidence for the band, probably born out of touring experience and the more generous production sound on the album. The distortion burns in a nice way compared to the sharp, icy blast of their debut and the melodies have been slowly coaxed out of the chaos.  Amongst the beautiful noise, A Place To Bury Strangers show they can also create something with beautiful poise. One hopes that Album #3 will see them balance their extremes even further and deliver the great record they are heading towards.

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