Album Review: Exploding Head by A Place to Bury Strangers
Excellent, Based on 5 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 90 Based on rating 9/10
Whether or not there's a touch of irony in New York noise trio A Place To Bury Strangers naming their second album after an inherent medical condition that causes loud noises to emerge within one's own head, they certainly manage to live up to their reputation as the loudest band in their native city. That little feat, thankfully, is merely the tip of the iceberg, as Exploding Head isn't just a lesson in abstract noise, or as the band themselves like to call it, 'total sonic annihilation'. Instead they've raised the ante considerably from their first, eponymous long player, concentrated their efforts on writing several insanely catchy melodies and delivered a record that fulfills the promise shown by those early recordings.
Brooklyn’s finest has appropriately named its sophomore album Exploding Head, because listening to this in certain factions—a hangover, a Sunday morning, riding around with your grandparents—would certainly make one’s head feel like it could pop. But should the mood strike, Exploding Head is another raucous ode to My Bloody Valentine meets The Jesus and Mary Chain shoegaze. But that’s what’s indicative about this band—although its references are often cited; Exploding Head has that passion needed in reinvigorating a sub-genre.
Though A Place to Bury Strangers called their second album Exploding Head, it's arguable that their debut, with its walls of low-rent distortion and abrasive beats, was more cranium-crushing. Even if the band's move to Mute resulted in cleaner, ever-so-slightly calmer surroundings for their music, A Place to Bury Strangers' sound and songwriting have more power and nuance here, as well as more structure -- nearly every song balances the black-on-black menace of their debut with pop appeal. Nowhere is this clearer than on "It Is Nothing," which opens the album with a three-minute burst of buzzsaw guitars, or on "Lost Feeling," which boasts a subtle tension and dive-bombing dynamics that wouldn't have been possible on the band's debut.
In exchange for a stage and an audience, Brooklyn’s A Place to Bury Strangers will offer up the coldest frowns of any band in the world. But maybe these guys have a sense of humor after all? Yes, the title of the second album by the noisy trio, whom I’m obligated to call “The Loudest Band in New York” (though, all kidding aside, that tagline is probably true), really is Exploding Head. With the help of Paul Simon’s recording engineer, Andy Smith, the group has made the murky wall of sound of their eponymous debut into a fortress, creating an album that is enormous in its sheer audacity.
About halfway through Exploding Head you really start to forget why A Place to Bury Strangers sounded so exciting on their self-titled debut two years ago. Not exactly what one wants to hear when talking about an anticipated sophomore release, especially one with a title that promises to literally split your fucking wig, or at very least serve as an alternate soundtrack to Scanners (I'm guessing Melting Face was a little too on-the-nose). While Exploding Head is no washout-- right around "Keep Slipping Away", the back half picks up where the debut left off, full of inspired pieces of paranoia-inducing industrial guitar noise and moribund pop textures-- it too often seems like a misguided attempt to connect dots for the listener.