Sound — 10
Ah, the abrasively distorted guitars, metronomic drums and sleazy, reverb-drenched vocals - it's almost as if Psychocandy-era Jesus And Mary Chain had never gone away. Even some of the song titles (Don't Think Lover, To Fix The Gash In Your Head) bear a bit of a whiff of the brothers Reid about them. But it would be unfair to brand A Place To Bury Strangers as Jesus And Mary Chain rip-offs, and I have to confess to not understanding the My Bloody Valentine comparisons. Whilst the walls of extreme distortion are present and correct, whilst MBV bore into the heart and the mind, APTBS go straight for the jugular vein. They can best be summed up by the fact that singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann formed his own effects pedal company, Death By Audio, because he couldn't get the sounds he wanted from pedals available on the mass market. They are the definition of a 'power trio' and currently hold the accolade of being one of the world's loudest bands. Their debut may be culled from a collection of demos rather than being a cohesive album, but I can't think of an album from the past few years that's had such a flawless run of opening tracks. 'Missing You' doesn't mess around, kicking the album off with an almighty burst of distortion and white noise, before settling into a Joy Division-esque groove topped with spiralling clean guitar lines, kicking back into bruising power chords in the chorus. 'Don't Think Lover' is similar, a restrained verse and refrain with an insanely distorted riff kicking in between each. 'To Fix The Gash In Your Head' is an abrasive listen, a furious melting pot of industrial synths, abused Fender Jaguars and metronomic drum machines, and 'The Falling Sun' is a deliriously beautiful ballad with a disjoined vocal and languidly wailing guitar floating over a bubbling synth bass, undulating noise and chest-shaking drums. Elsewhere, 'I Know I'll See You' is minimalistic but infernally catchy and 'Ocean' sounds like a punk version of Spiritualised. Fantastic stuff.
Lyrics — 9
As is the shoegazing tradition, the vocals are low in the mix and drenched in reverb, which is a shame because Oliver Ackermann has the Jim Reid/Ian Curtis-esque baritone drawl down to a tee. As a lyricist, he occasionally slips into cliche and stereotype ("Don't think, lover" obviously rhymes with "Love lasts forever") but it never stops the vocals being effective - a highlight once again is 'To Fix The Gash In Your Head', a damning indictment of a former lover delivered with barely concealed venom - "I want to beat you up/I don't care, I won't feel hollow". 'The Falling Sun's tale of a failing relationship is complemented brilliantly by the ghostly are-they-there-or-not backing vocals and Ackermann singing as though he's suffering from a monumental hangover. I know vocals aren't necessarily the most important aspect of shoegazing but it's nice to hear them done well for a change.
Overall Impression — 10
Like the two pinnacles of the noise-shoegaze-dream-pop subgenre, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and The Jesus And Mary Chain's Psychocandy, on first listen this album sounds like little more than a horrific wall of noise but as you listen to it more and more it begins to make sense and you see the beauty beneath the chaos. On the eve of APTBS's second album being released, I have to concur that their debut is one of my favourite albums of the decade. In the days of 'indie' going the way of Radio 1 playlisting, over-production and 'mainstream crossover appeal' and having its reputation ruined by truly awful bands such as Razorlight it's refreshing to hear a band with punk attitude in their music. I'm sure APTBS don't care that most people will turn the album off after 30 seconds of abrasive distortion and feedback. It's an album with a consistent sound, yet one that is varied throughout, and hopefully given time it will be recognised as a great album. So many have tried to copy My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain but APTBS are the first band not to completely miss the point - Black Rebel Motorcycle who?