“The loudest band in New York.” That is the self-given label proudly worn by the trio of A Place to Bury Strangers. With their eponymous, dissonant debut album, they make good on their claim. Stepping down on the distortion pedals with feet of marble, they create some of the most psychotic candy this side of the Jesus & Mary Chain. Like fellow New York nu-gazers Asobi Seksu, Strangers demonstrate a clear and controlled passion for the thick guitar haze of yesterdecade. While the former band favors the euphoric dream-pop of noise employed by Slowdive and early Ride, the latter prefers to take their cue from more aggressive, shoot-first outfits like Swervedriver, Catherine Wheel, and pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine, with a dash of vintage post-punk for good measure.
Frontman Oliver Ackermann speaks softly and wields a big, feedback-soaked ax, while the tag-team of bassist Jono MOFO and drummer Jay Space creates a rhythm section that could be downright danceable if it weren’t so pummeling at every turn. Imagine the stark angularity of Joy Division drenched in the metallic fuzz of Ministry.
This method of attack proves most successful on the lead single “To Fix the Gash in Your Head,” combining Factory Records beat and scorching chorus. Once their ears have stopped bleeding, listeners should notice more winners like “I Know I’ll See You”–the most Joy Divisive track here–and the closing dirge of “Ocean,” which hints at Souvlaki by way of Cure’s Disintegration and suggests that A Place to Bury Strangers don’t always need to blow out the speakers to convey their ideas.
And here’s hoping there are more ideas to spare. Too many of these kinds of acts tend to burn bright and quickly burn out–Jesus & Mary Chain arguably never topped their debut. An auspicious debut like this, however, is more than enough to ward off a premature burial for these Strangers. For now at least.