Review Summary: Dethroned but not forgotten.
A guitar flies through the stage and smashes against the amp while feedback fills the place like a monumental mass of negative energy. Ackermann is a happy man. He knows exactly what he's doing. He feeds on chaos. If something goes wrong on stage, he never misses the chance to turn the obstacle into a museum of horrors, and the band gladly plays along. Those were the days though: "A Place To Bury Strangers, a.k.a. The Loudest Band of New York". Following the demise and foreclosure of Death By Audio, the DIY batcave where the thinking head of APTBS lived, created and crafted his own effect pedals, things changed. It's present day and Ackermann has moved into a new place. In his new apartment, he sits on the bed and plays with a drum machine, not too loud though because you know, the last thing he needs right now is scaring the neighbors. It's in this unexpected and almost sad fashion that APTBS's fifth album, Pinned
, is born.
The latest release of A Place To Bury Strangers is not that loud anymore, or at least not the loudest, but it surely clutches to some of the elements that made them the deafening force they once were. Before the recording of Pinned
, Ackermann and co. were lucky enough to cross paths with the explosive drummer Lia Simone Braswell, formerly of Le Butcherettes. Not only she bangs the kit like a maniac, but she also works double duty as a compliment to Ackermann’s lifeless singing with her own vocals. Honestly, Braswell is a spark of life in the cadaverous shadow that APTBS had become years after they were recognized as the saving grace of noise rock, and it’s partly thanks to this newfound, weakly beating heart that the band led by Oliver Ackermann breathes again.
Since hogging the limelight with their atrociously produced self titled debut and their sophomore effort, Exploding Head
, an album that remains as one of the genre’s beacons, A Place To Bury Strangers have known decay in full splendour. Worship
were already signs of a band burnt too fast trying to cover uninspired songwriting and almost inexistent musicianship behind walls of noise and sluggish drum machines. The gang needed to re-evaluate.
Fast forward to 2018 and here we have the latest incarnation of APTBS. Far from the tempestuous mayhem of the glory days, Pinned
struggles to become the new vessel for the band, but it somehow expects to do so with half the attitude. “Never Coming Back” opens the album unabashed, sticking to a couple of notes and a post-punk beat. The drunken melody loops: (“I get so high / when I get so low / and I get so low / when I get so high”)
. Ackermann’s forte never was writing lyrics but drooling them until they become an ecstatic mantra. The opening number erupts towards the end with a flare of distortion, showing off some of Ackermann’s sonic crafting and noise worship, one of APTBS’s unquestionable strengths. “Execution” rides a racing electric beat while battling a disturbing monster of ecstatic and god knows what. “There’s Only One of Us” and “Situation Changes” pacify the mood for a while, the latter flourishing with goth vibes and Ackermann’s and Braswell’s voices seemingly comforting each other. “Too Tough To Kill” is a simple but effective track, but it certainly reigns above the rest of the songs that conform Pinned
The album’s second half plays extremes. “Frustrated Operator”, as its title so proverbially states, suffers the calvary of going through a momentary identity crisis, easily the hardest to traverse, although it’s quickly aided by the gracious serenity of “Was It Electric”. At this point, it is time to decide if it's worth pushing onwards to the end or throwing the towel, because the last four tracks that wrap up Pinned
are just an extension of everything that was on store. Nothing more, nothing less. The band makes its way out by inertia, as if they knew that no matter what they add or subtract, nothing will change the dragging apathy that bleeds out from their most recent creation.
When remembering the old days, nostalgia can play mischievous tricks in your head, but when the ashes blow through the speakers and go straight into your ears it’s difficult to ignore it. A Place To Bury Strangers may have seen better days, but the present still retains some of that essence which proves that the band is far from finished. They may have been long dethroned but Pinned
may as well be all they need to start rebuilding the kingdom.