This is a guest article by IDIOTEQ Texas based contributor Eddie Cantú.
There was a time when I used to think to myself: How catchy can a rock band be, while still being considered extreme to their genre? Or, vice versa, what level of melodic proficiency can a band maintain while simultaneously piercing your eardrums?
We get a few hints of this exotic execution with the first wave of punk bands such as The Stooges’ first 3 albums, and the long line of bands who were inspired by this approach. But as the decades go by and the quality of sound recording is escalated and clarified it seems to me that this initial question is becoming harder and harder to answer. What is extreme today? Can music still Feel dangerous? Are we playing it too safe? There’s been many music scenes and trends that sought to place distortion and volume as the summit of their modus operandi, and consequently a lot of these bands lacked in arrangement and songwriting. It’s because of this unquenched collective sonic space why a band like A Place To Bury Strangers have become a prominent act in the extreme noise and indie scene for over a decade.
However with their 5th full length album released in the middle of April, as well as a new member addition, it’s obvious that A Place To Bury Strangers are carrying their signature sound into a, dare I say, more melodic and atmospheric territory, vaguely explored before. It seems to me that on “Pinned”, A Place To Bury Strangers are easing off the pummeling distortion that defines their live shows, or they’re at least incorporating it for a different purpose here.
Pinned begins with, maybe, the most interesting song on this album: “Never Coming Back”.
A 5 minute, bass-led, psychedelic jam of grey smog not unlike the cover art. The song progresses and builds naturally all the while frontman Oliver Ackerman and drummer Lia Simone’s voices are wailing over the mist. It’s a great opening track for many reasons, the main one being, that the songs abrupt end, after having built on for the 5 minutes, leaves you wanting more. It leaves you curious as to what you can expect from this offering.
As Pinned continues, any long time listener will quickly note that the addition of a new vocalist, – Lia Simone Braswell, also on drums, alters the band’s vocal style drastically and quickly becomes a key element to this album; maybe even the defining feature besides the short 2 minute electronic jams scattered across the track listing. A Place To Bury Strangers can hardly be thought to be a musician’s band anyways, so these new element fit naturally and makes Oliver’s songs all the more interesting. Songs like “Situations Changes”, “Too Tough Too Kill”, and “Was It Electric?” would sound incomplete with only a single vocalist. The latter of these songs in which Oliver and Lia perform a sentimental, and heart-melting vocal performance for the shoegazing ages. Sure, over the years A Place To Bury Strangers have written their slew of sappy ballads, but none of them can quite compare to a song like “Was It Electric?” And it’s a song like this that makes me think that this new direction of styles won’t be as bad of a thing as the traditional A Place To Bury Strangers fan might think upon their first listen to Pinned.
So how can I wrap up this album in a few words, and what do I think this album will be thought of when faced against the other A Place To Bury Strangers releases?
Pinned sounds like a predecessor to something potentially amazing. This could be the time in their career where A Place To Bury Strangers find themselves anew and don’t turn back on their instinct. I can’t say Pinned is an amazing album, or my favorite of their discography either, but there’s a fresh vision at play here that hasn’t been realized. And if the band were to focus on their strengths they could very well become a force to be reckoned with across multiple genres.