A Place to Bury Strangers
Pinned (Brainwashing Machine Edition)
I first saw A Place to Bury Strangers opening for Big Pink (a case for a Whatever Happened To… segment if ever there was once) at Club Soda in Montreal in 2009. They were incendiary live, loud, cacophonous, and intense. It was the second coming of the Jesus and Marychain, the same loud guitars, feedback and precision beats of the Marychain’s 1980s heyday. But there was an industrial aesthetic underneath all that noise. When my ears finally stopped ringing, and I listened to the CD I bought direct from frontman Oliver Ackerman after the show, there was a lot more going on on record, more melody, and more structure. I was hooked.
So here are all these years later, and A Place to Bury Strangers have just released Pinned, their fifth long player. It would be easy to say there’s nothing new here. A Place to Bury Strangers haven’t really evolved all that much since that album I bought at the show, which was their 2009 album, Exploding Head, which remains my favourite, by far, of their oeuvre. Each new album is more of the same, loud guitars, screeching feedback, Ackerman’s lyrics, and the industrial-sounding drums. Not that I think this is a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite.
But Pinned marks the addition of Lia Simone Braswell on drums, and she also brings with her a new set of backing vocals. As odd as it may sound, but the addition of female backing vocals fleshes out Ackerman’s song-writing, and adds not just a new dimension, but new texture to his music. At the same time, Ackerman’s music has a new kick, there’s more moodiness, the guitars are quieter on some songs, which allows Dion Lunadon’s driving, post-punk bass and Braswell’s tight drumming to move to centre stage, whilst Ackerman’s guitar wails in the background.
Taken together, Braswell’s vocals and the quieter songs add something new, but it all sounds in keeping with Ackerman’s very carefully constructed cool, his Jesus and Marychain revival. I have no problem with this, of course. In fact, I love it. This album has been in heavy rotation around here.
The Brainwashing Machine Edition of Pinned tacks on an ep-length collection of songs, which were presumably leftovers from the Pinned sessions. In my case, this is a good thing, as it is more of the same.