I feel stupid for having slept on these guys until now. Hey, there's a lot of music in the world! And for some reason I had pegged these cats as being in a different genre or something.
A Place To Bury Strangers are due to release their new album, Transfixiation, on Dead Oceans in about a week and it's a monster of a disc. Within a few seconds of the wonderfully titled "Love High" starting up and I was a firm fan of this band. The song pulses like "Soon"-era MBV but instead replaces that sort of wooziness with something closer to the hard mechanical riffage of later tracks from The Jesus and Mary Chain. "What We Don't See" rides that same vibe in the general direction of early Joy Division. If those hooks are in thrall to...Hook, and Sumner and crew, then the guitar squawk is all the more aberrant and the effect of the song all the more impressive. A Place To Bury Strangers manage to meld about 4 different styles together here in this track and the results equal something simultaneously beautiful and abrasive.
I was wondering how far into this record I'd have to get before I trotted out either a Loop or a Swans reference and the answer is...not too far. "Deeper" mines a sinister vein of Gira goodness even as the background music behind the ominous vocals sounds like slowed down Loop. This is hard, hard music that sounds unlike anything else you're probably listening to these days.
But it's not all moody, loud noise-making on this one. Even though the track is over far too quickly, "Lower Zone" impressively channels "Swastika Eyes"-era Primal Scream for something more sleek than entirely sinister. "We've Come So Far" is an exuberant rocker that's the near cousin of Spiritualized at their best. There is something punishing here but the punishment brings enlightenment thanks to those background vocals. Probably one of the best songs on Transfixiation in the final summation.
Look, this is largely a humorless record. Those looking for flashes of melodic creativity, or a witty lyric, would be well advised to look elsewhere. This is not that kind of party. A Place To Bury Strangers are good at one thing and they have managed to craft a suitably futuristic sounding collection of hard noise rockers on this one. Traces of the previously mentioned Loop, Primal Scream (from certain eras), and Swans are all here and they are as easy to spot as the spots on a leopard. If that sounds harsh, I'm sorry. That said, one must approach Transfixiation and assess it for the overall effect it produces. And, in the right frame of mind, or simply full of the right chemicals, one is apt to find this a glorious listen. A Place To Bury Strangers are clearly interested in pummeling a listener and by that measure they have succeeded admirably here. Transfixiation is groundbreaking only in the methods in which some very worthy influences are put into the service of something relatively extreme. I'm probably not going to play this new A Place To Bury Strangers album every week but I'm sure that there are cuts on here that I will throw on when I'm driving the highway late at night. It's that kind of record and in an era of records without any kick, we are desperately in need of stuff that punches us in the gut. This one does.