While A Place To Bury Strangers came up in the DIY Brooklyn scene that’s also been ground zero for the garage-party & lo-fi scenes, they were always a little bit a cut above the rest. Yes, singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann ran the all-ages, warehouse venue Death By Audio (QRO venue review) – but as an offshoot of his pedal effects company of the same name. Called New York’s ‘loudest indie band’, that description was always held in a bit of disdain, like they were some mock-wanna-be Spinal Tap. After their 2007 self-titled debut (QRO review), which was a collection of their Red, Blue & Green EPs from the previous year, the group moved to EMI imprint Mute Records, home to accomplished electronic acts, from the dance of Moby (QRO live review) to the more idiosyncratic Liars (QRO photos). However, Exploding Head seems to find the band having evolved from volume, but not 100% sure where they want to go from here.
Saying A Place To Bury Strangers isn’t sure of their direction is a little ironic, as one of the band’s hallmarks is a driving forward pressure. However, that hallmark is not exactly new, having originated with eighties U.K. New Wave, and brought back in this decade. There’s a swerving drive to opener “It Is Nothing”, and the group’s press likewise swerves between the road of acts like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (QRO album review) on pieces like “In Your Heart”, and the reverb of the likes of Interpol (QRO album review) or Editors (QRO album review) on songs such as “Keep Slipping Away”. The band even picks up some of the higher, eighties electro-dance steps to New Wave in the title track.
Not that A Place To Bury Strangers does these sounds badly; on the contrary, they’re quite able to put their pressure to use. But it’s a sound that is too easy to repeat, and Exploding Head struggles to ever feel original (thus all of the comparisons to other acts from earlier this decade, who themselves are always compared to acts from the eighties). Like with “Deadbeat” – decent, but you’ve heard this before. And when the band shifts away from its drive, all it’s left with is noise (“Lost Feeling”) or plodding heavy-rock (“Ego Death”).
A Place To Bury Strangers are definitely in another league from the garage-party & lo-fi acts of their Brooklyn scene, but that has as much to do with the low musical ambitions in those scenes as anything else. If not quite directed, if not quite impressive, Exploding Head has that ambition, if nothing else.
MP3 Stream: “Exploding Head”