Review Summary: Teen Suicide is dead.
Here is what people are saying about ***ing Bliss by American Pleasure Club:
"I think they tried to make a dark album, and I get it, but it's just kinda different"
"Some albums should've stayed unreleased"
"Like, do I have to be on LSD to understand this""
These are just a few of many quotes from YouTube comment sections, emblazoned on a big sticker that has been slapped to the back of the protective sleeve on my vinyl copy of this record. And for those who are a fan of (or even remotely familiar with) this band and what they do, it comes as no surprise that the majority of the reception towards this release is negative. For years now, APC (formerly Teen Suicide) has been churning out their typical approach to LoFi indie and pop music, with occasional shades of punk rock influence. They have amassed quite the following through their sound and the angsty aesthetic they've built. And while many people were consistently enamored by every release the band put out, I was under the impression that APC would just become another prime example of a group that slowly regresses into mediocrity. Each new album featured the same exact sound of their debut full length, but with less catchy hooks, less distinguishable characteristics, and less emotion being poured into the songwriting process with every new release. They sounded like a group of guys that just wanted to feed the eager mouths of their fanbase to stay afloat and relevant, rather than the fun, experimental project that they had once been. But on ***ing Bliss, one thing is apparent, as one may be able to realize from that sticker I was talking about
: This isn't Teen Suicide anymore. This is APC. And APC doesn't give a damn about what you think anymore.
Gone are the days of Telecasters, jangly riffs, poorly (albeit intentionally) recorded percussion, and Sam Rey's vocal delivery that ranges from raspy shouts to drugged-out murmurs. Instead, replacing all of these traits, are harsh noise and ambient drones. APC has delved into these territories on previous releases, such as DC Snuff Film and It's The Big Joyous Celebration. Their frontman's solo project, Ricky Eats Acid, meets all the qualifications of a drone act as well. But they had only ever dipped their toes in the water on very few cuts in their discography, splashing a little Tim Hecker here and a little Merzbow there. It was surprising to see these ideas come to fruition on an entire album, and in such a well-crafted and gorgeously gloomy way. This is the only album in APC's catalogue of its kind, yet it feels as though they have been doing this their entire life, crafting magic behind closed doors until they were ready to fully unveil these tastes and talents to their audience.
One could say that ***ing Bliss feels like a compilation of sorts; Perhaps a collection of lost tracks or B-sides. But not in the disjointed, unfinished type of way that you'd expect when you hear those kinds of terms. The production found here is best described as pristine, yet gritty, combining the LoFi bedroom feel APC has perfected over their career with a more professional spin to create a perfect sweet spot that isn't too grimey or too polished. Each track here provides an entirely unique set of sounds, but somehow manages to keep the same melancholic vibe throughout, allowing the record to flow in a consistent and smooth manner. "The Miserable Vision" opens the record with a euphoric wave of pianos and haunting vocal melodies, bleeding together to create an ambient drone, building up to a drop that plummets you into an abyss of malfunctioning machinery and intense bass kicks. The song "Ban This Book" is easily the eeriest track to be found here, the bustling, looping beat building up a sense of anxiety and curiosity before the track bashes you over the head with a sudden wall of screeching noise, causing your heart to nearly leap out of your chest. And "Hello Grace" takes the bedroom pop route, delivering a well-blended serving of soothing violins, trap-influenced drum beats, and down-tuned, distorted male singing that mixes very smoothly with the repeating harmonization of the catchy female vocal samples. This game of aural ping-pong that ***ing Bliss plays with the eardrums of the listener creates an emotional rollercoaster, inducing anxiety one moment before rapidly melting away into relief on the next. And at under 30 minutes in length, this is a perfect album for anyone that wants to get into this style of music. It is not an extremely challenging listen in terms of their respective genres, nor does it overstay its welcome.
***ing Bliss is a very ambitious and risky undertaking, a project that could've flopped very easily had it not been well thought out or executed. But all in all, the album is a much needed breath of fresh air, not just for their oversaturated discography, but for ambient and drone music as a whole. Sam Rey and Co.'s fire seemed to be dying out, but with an entirely new style and a middle finger salute to the peanut gallery, APC reignited their flame, put their passions to the test, and crafted their best album to date.