Stridently reminding people of their place in the noise rock pantheon
After they came flanging and warbling out of NYC’s music scene in the early aughts, soon earning the title of “the loudest band in New York,” A Place to Bury Strangers have kept up the pace with relentless touring and a steady output of albums and singles. They’ve never strayed far from their formula over the years because it’s a reliable one: filthy, ear-shattering cascades of feedback that assume song form thanks to the melodic sensibility of principal songwriter Oliver Ackermann.
Many a shoegaze band follows this two-part formula to some degree, but A Place to Bury Strangers blows the competition out of the water on both fronts. With their newest Hologram EP, the band maintains their long-running winning streak.
The EP is described as a commentary on ”the decay of connections, friendships lost, and the trials and tribulations of these troubled times.” If these are the themes addressed in Ackermann’s lyrics, one can’t really tell because, as usual, it’s impossible to hear the words. But, as usual, who the hell cares? A Place to Bury Strangers have always gotten by on the strength of their melodies and their corrosive, highly textured sonics, and Hologram is no exception.
The floodgates are opened right away on the first track, “End of the Night,” unleashing a barrage of sprawling, washed-out guitar noise laced with a danceable rhythm. It just sounds so big. It’s a plain descriptor, but there isn’t a better one for music like this—it’s big, big, big. Look no further than “In My Hive,” which features explosive cymbal strikes (courtesy of Sandra Fedowitz, the band’s new drummer) drenched in so much reverb that they sound like cars crashing into each other.
The usual influences can be heard on this record—My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain—plus some inspiration from more straightforward punk groups, especially on “I Might Have,” a Stooges-esque number that boasts one of the catchiest hooks on the entire thing (“They beat me down with what they say,” which Ackermann snarls like Joey Ramone). Immediately after this comes an uncharacteristically clean track called “Playing The Part” with a slick, twinkling guitar line that evokes The Smiths. This is another one of the band’s strengths: illuminating the link between punk, post-punk and shoegaze.
Hologram is every bit as big and noisy as a My Bloody Valentine or Jesus and Mary Chain record, and Ackermann’s arsenal of dreamy melodies also rivals that of his influences. All of the EP’s five songs feature a sticky tune, culminating in the best track, “I Need You,” whose syrupy chorus would sound right at home on a ‘50s pop song if not for the wall of feedback that surrounds it.
Another compelling part of this mere five-track EP is that it doesn’t really feel like an EP at all. The format is too often utilized to fart out songs without regard to structure, but on Hologram, the tracklist is coherent. There’s a clear sense of development as the record begins with the band’s usual distorted stylings, then treads into cleaner territory, then finally cycles back into a swirling mass of guitar noise again. The entire project crystallizes as if it were an album while remaining easily digestible like a good EP does.
On Hologram, A Place to Bury Strangers play into all their strengths and stridently remind people of their place in the noise rock pantheon—in just 22 minutes to boot. Bite-sized and digestible, yet unmistakably big, this EP could act as a useful entry point for the band, or, if you’re already a seasoned fan of theirs, just another solid addition to an already consistent discography. For A Place to Bury Strangers, this record might be more of the same, but that’s no problem when “the same” is this damn good.