Place to Bury Strangers, A - Worship
A Place to Bury Strangers - Worship
Record Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Whenever a band unleashes weapons of mass distortion the way A Place to Bury Strangers do, I guess it's natural for comparisons to original shoegaze-mongers The Jesus and Mary Chain to come rolling in. And maybe if the Chain's "Just Like Honey" were called "Just Like Shards of Busted Glass", I'd be more eager to buy into it. But A Place to Bury Strangers, led by effects pedal peddler to the stars Oliver Ackermann, let loose a full-on assault of your eardrums that's uniformly tense, aggressive and sinister. Beneath the diaphanous curtain of echo and fuzz, Psychocandy proves to be as sweet as any other kind. On Worship, their third full-length, and second release this year following the EP Onwards to the Wall, A Place to Bury Strangers continue, for better or worse, to carve out their own niche. The results are loud, punishing, totally lacking in subtlety, and at this juncture, almost completely predictable.
None of which, to my mind, are necessarily bad things. The band's brash, uncompromising aesthetic is of particular appeal to my inner '80s underground fan and something I think most indie-rock fans can get behind. And I, at least, am more than willing to forgive a so-called lack of originality if the songs hold up. And for the most part on Worship, they do. Songs like the opener "Alone" and "Mind Control" are the type of squall-infused tunes that have become synonymous with A Place to Bury Strangers, the latter featuring the band at their most propulsive and Ackermann's vocals at their chilling best. He's still almost entirely monotone and channels famed somber dudes Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy, but that usually makes for a perfect fit with the vibe of his songs. On the title track, the Brooklyn-based group flex their arena-rock muscles, with the lead guitar tracing out riffs The Killers would be proud of (or at least would have been proud of eight years ago). Worship delivers its biggest knockout blow with "Revenge", a five-minute show-stopper that distills all the band's strengths so effectively, it could very well serve as their mission statement.
For all of Worship's successes, it suffers from a few frustrating problems that keep it from reaching the glorious heights of its predecessor Exploding Head, problems that seem to arise when the band appear to be trying to break away from their comfort zone. On "Dissolved", rather than attack us outright with screeching jabs of feedback, A Place to Bury Strangers aim for the heartstrings, but they are clearly out of their element, and the song comes off like some sort of long-lost Love and Rockets throwaway. "Why Can't I Cry Anymore" nips on the heels of "Dissolved", wildly shifting the tempo and focusing on its hyperkinetic post-punk rhythms, which clash awkwardly with Ackermann's breathy nonchalance. It's here that we're sort of reminded that, for all their subversive racket, A Place to Bury Strangers are making what is at its core pop music, because it's startling how quickly the song collapses as soon as that fact becomes too obscured.
Fortunately, Worship provides plenty of opportunities to experience A Place to Bury Strangers at the top of their game. When it comes to squeezing intensely unnerving atmospheres out of his noise, Ackermann is a singular talent. But in this day and age when specialization is lauded, it's a little disappointing when his songs venture into facelessness, as on a ho-hum darkwave dud like "You Are the One", or formlessness, like the aforementioned "Why Can't I Cry Anymore". So Worship tells us one thing we already knew: not only are A Place to Bury Strangers at their finest when making a tinnitus-inducing wall of noise, they may very well be the best in the business at it. But on their attempts to avoid one-trick-pony accusations, they might have revealed themselves to be exactly that.
Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.
"And maybe if the Chain's "Just Like Honey" were called "Just Like Shards of Busted Glass", I'd be more eager to buy into it" --- so true haha
Great review! i totally agree