These days, hearing the words "Eighties" and "Revival" anywhere near each other as a description for a new band is about as commonplace as the yawn it's sure to evoke. The problem isn't with mining a long gone decade for inspiration, but how unimaginative the pillaging has become. Listening to these groups, one might assume that alternative in the Eighties was purely synth pop, new wave, and post-punk. But what about noise rock? What about shoegaze? Dream pop? A Place to Bury Strangers answers to these, with what just might be the best Post-Punk Revival record since Interpol's debut.
Exploding Head, the band's second effort, reminds us what real revival is. It's not about emanating the sounds of your favorite bands; it's about adding your own ideas and building up on them. Of course, A Place to Bury Strangers makes no secret about their influences, but the sound produced is theirs alone. While My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain are obvious touchstones, neither group has ever produced anything this visceral, this brutal.
Opener It Is Nothing lets us know right away that the reputation this band has for being obscenely loud and aggressive has been well earned. The warbled introductory guitar quickly leads into a flurry of distortion and stuttering drums, which should not sound as fast as they do with the way drummer Jay Space hammers on his snare. The proverbial icing on the cake is when Oliver Ackermann's half soothing, half menacing vocals are crooned over the cacophony. And they're just getting started.
The very wisely chosen singles, In Your Heart and Keep Slipping Away, show particularly well that it's not just their aggression, their energy, the fact that they are so effortlessly and relentlessly loud, but that they are downright melodious as well. The hooks are incredible; and not only are they good, they're sold perfectly. If Robert Smith heard the verses in these two songs, he'd be kicking himself for not having come up with them first.
Following the latter track is Ego Death, a slow burning and brooding piece with trudging, crushing distortion and a thumping beat. Remember those dark mid-nineties movies (The Crow, Seven, and Strange Days come to mind) with the obligatory scene in a club, featuring an appropriately dark band? This song conjures that perfectly - only unflinchingly heavier and forceful. It truly belongs on the soundtrack to a good cyberpunk movie... though that could easily just be me.
Another great attribute is how well Ackermann is able to sell his vocals over all the noise. Perfect example: On the fourth cut Deadbeat, Ackermann drearily moans, "Why/What the fuck/Don't play with my heart," and it doesn't sound trite, forced, or even whiny. What is most notable though, is that his presence is able to front the talents of Space and bassist Jono MOFO. On the outstanding Smile When You Smile, the rhythm section is in top form all throughout; the ferocious beat and MOFO's bass, which quite frankly overpowers Ackermann's guitar a number of times could easily overwhelm a frontman, but his voice is easily able to take command.
Exploding Head is sharp as a tack, masterfully pairing the group's pop sensibility with their raucous onslaught; a damn strong album from a band with a ton of promise.