On August 31, 2007 everything changed for New York band A Place To Bury Strangers.
That was the day it’s self-titled, 10 track compilation of MP3s and previously released CD-R tracks (recorded 2003-2006) received glowing remarks over at Pitchfork. Those that know, well, know. But those who don’t have absolutely no idea what power Pitchfork holds. Labels and distributors wait anxiously to see whether or not Pitchfork gives a nod. A positive review at Pitchfork sends distributors into a frenzy trying to obtain more copies of a release and sends labels scurrying to get credit extended at their pressing plants. Similarly, a bad review delivers that shiver of “oh, shit” up both parties backs. As I’ve said before, I like Pitchfork. I like their snarky humor, miles-long record reviews and daily news updates. However, it’s far from a good thing for any single media outlet to hold so much sway over the financial backbone of an industry.
Let’s say a prayer here for the poor record store clerks around the world who have endure countless kids coming in each day trying to find an album that Pitchfork wrote about that morning. Never mind that whatever-the-hell-it-is came out on a micro-indie label run out of a kids bedroom. Never mind that, even if their were enough copies manufactured to stock every record store in the nation, a distributor would first have had to take the leap of faith and order enough to accomplish the task.
Nope, record clerks are supposed to be clairvoyant superstars of their domains and have every single thing that could possibly be wanted by anyone at anytime stocked up. An impossible task, to be sure, but one that is compounded in difficulty by the immediacy of the frenzy that happens post-Pitchfork. (Maybe Pitchfork could start doing “Pitchfork-alerts” similar to the way Oprah Winfrey [also from Chicago!Hmm…] warns retailers of her impending endorsement of something so they can stock up.) This isn’t meant to be an apology for record clerks, either, who can be as unbelievably lazy, dim witted, clueless and rude as the kid at Burger King who looks at you funny when he tells you your total is $4.15 and you hand him a five dollar bill and a quarter.
The point is Pitchfork can sure cause a whole lot of action. Which brings me back to the point at hand.
A Place To Bury Strangers originally only had 500 or so of these pressed by Boston-based label Killer Pimp. Needless to reiterate (but I will anyway) there was a run on them. Totally intrigued by the samples I had heard (and, to be perfectly honest, the hype surrounding them) I went out and bought it today. It was worth every single cent I parted with.
Ostensibly “the loudest band in New York”, A Place To Bury Strangers operates in that fuzzy arena between wanting to be and wanting to be something else (a fact noted clearly over at I Rock Cleveland, but I disagree with their assessment). While the comparisons to The Jesus And Mary Chain are not completely inaccurate they’re overly simplistic and, ultimately, a disservice to listeners. (Noteworthy: APTBS has already shared the stage with JAMC and Radio Birdman. Yeah, my jealousy is rising…).
The intensity of A Place To Bury Strangers lies in the bands ability to obliterate the listener with almost literal walls of sound while forcing melody through the thick, meshy fuzz. It’s at once a physical entanglement and familiar embrace. A rough romance predicated on domination with tenderness present to only such a degree that one knows it’s coming around again. But there’s no way of telling when.
Truth be told, I’m not terribly fond of the electro-drum sounds on some of this. Once Ministry started ripping off Big Black wholesale I was pretty much done with any electronic drums outside of honest-to-God dance music and the sequenced patterns on tracks like “To Fix The Gash In Your Head” sort of leave me cold.
The band is at it’s absolute best ( or, rather, at it’s best within the context of a mere 10 songs) when it thunders through it’s My Bloody Valentine-best before practically holding the listeners hand through gorgeous melodies (“Don’t Think Lover”).
When people speak of current bands in terms of old bands it’s usually a total drag so don’t let me bring you down. It’s not my intention to list a series of touchstones from which various chips have fallen off and formed A Place To Bury Strangers. It is, however, my intention to describe the band in such a way as to allow them their proper place (if not as peers then certainly as part of a lineage) among the bands they clearly admire. Even if they never progress past what they’re doing right now they will still have added something of value to the world. Word is, though, that they’re already working toward something else and I wait very impatiently for whatever that could be.
Without a doubt the most exciting thing I’ve heard this week.
Support your local independent record store! If you don’t have one then buy it here.