Review Summary: Echoic. Explosive. Everything about A Place to Bury Strangers in two words.
Critically acclaimed by Yahoo! as one of the top ten albums of the year, I just had to check out A Place to Bury Strangers. Described as noise rock at it's finest, A Place to Bury Strangers didn't disappoint. APTBS' has a proven formula of noisy, distortion filled songs with almost spacey sounds to surround it to create powerful songs that grab the listener's attention. Sadly, however, APTBS has done nothing too incredible or innovative, although that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If you've never heard the band before, then the first track will be (as it was for me) a bit of a heart racer. There is no 10 seconds of intro music or buildup; as soon as the album begins it explodes with a thumping bass line over repetitive drumming, with distorted, rackety sounding guitars over it; this soon degenerates into spacey synths and echoing, distant vocals over the bass and drum. Missing You, the first track, is an example of everything good about ATPBS: it's got good, solid drumming and bass that can quickly explode under psychedelic synths, or feedback and distortion-laden guitars. The album will continue in this fashion, utilizing the wall of sound theory to create explosive, knock-you-off-your-feet rhythms. Don't Think Lover, the second track, is a personal favorite of mind, using upbeat vocals in the verses and a drum blast in to explode into the powerful musical interludes in between; the song is one of the "happiest" sounding songs on the album, having an uncharacteristic brightness to it.
To Fix the Gash in Your Head is techno-laden drums and echoic vocals with a humorous twist; the chorus-line is "to kick your face in, to fix the gash in your head" that gets me chanting along with the song every time. The Falling Sun is the slowest song on the album, but that doesn't mean it's bad! The characteristic explosion is still their, while the softer moments have a slow, trudging, melancholy quality to them. The song, while not a favorite, is a fine example of the explosive power of APTBS, although it's not hard to find that on this album.
The second half of the album begins with Another Step Away, the second brightest song on the album, next to Don't Think Lover. Psychedelic noises echoing of the walls of the song are played throughout the song, with the bass and drums both pounding away under them. If you haven't noticed yet, every song I've mentioned has one underlying quality: echo. Echo is used on this album as an instrument as much as any of the guitars, basses, or drums. The albums reeks of echo, and it's not a bad thing! The echo defines the album in many aspects, as without it the album wouldn't be as powerful. But, the echo definitely becomes monotonous.
Breathe explodes in, brazen and echo-y, with trance-like vocals pouring over the sound. The song almost has a flood-like quality with the lyrics; they flow over the tops of the instruments, over the distortion and reverb, overtaking the instruments. Of course, once the vocals stop, the song regains it's blasting, pounding sound. I Know I'll See You utilizes psychedilia-techno more than any other song on the album. The ticking of the drums with the reverb-filled snare are most noticeable in this track, with the droning vocals radiating over them. She Dies uses exploding, distortion filled cymbals in its effort to create a powerful, erupting sound, and it succeeds. The song, when it gets loud, GETS LOUD, with an eruption of bass drums and cymbals creating an exploding sound, like bombs being dropped; the song also has a melodic flow to it that intrigued me. During the verse, the song is almost rolling along with a sort of expressive notion; then, the guitar screeches in, and the drums begins to drop bombs. My Weakness is characteristically powerful and driving, with nothing too extraordinary about it.
Ocean, weighing in at 5:59 (the longest song on the album), has a less explosive quality throughout most of it. The song is actually less based around squealing distortion and more around the vocals! The song says something about "never let it go," but the vocals are so reverb-filled, it's hard to make out exactly what he says; of course, every track's vocals are like this. In the final minute-and-a-half of this song, the familiar distortion rides in and then fades out, planting a nice ending to an impressive album.
The album is powerful. It's explosive, it's echoic, it's...boring? Well, not exactly, but APTBS, sadly, doesn't really stretch the limits to anything beyond distortion and reverb. Of course, that doesn't take away from the intensity of the album, it just leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully the band's future efforts will show expansion with their ideas, rather than following the same formula with every song. Despite being repetitive, however, A Place to Bury Strangers is a solid effort and a solid debut album for the band.