A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS – Change Your God / It is Time

For those who’ve followed the musical progress of New York shoegazers A Place To Bury Strangers since their early days, the band’s gradual, and very natural shift into more commercial sounds has likely formed a very interesting journey. For those who discovered the band a little later, these “commercial sounds” could still feel cold and confronting, but somewhere beneath their distortion and darkness, it should’ve become increasing clear that these Jesus & Mary Chain obsessives were capable of wielding a great tune.

Never was this much more obvious than on ‘Change Your God’, the A-side of this first instalment of “The Sevens” – a series of stand alone singles featuring leftovers from their ‘See Through You’ album sessions. It kicks off with an abrasive guitar chord or two, before dropping into an even more challenging pneumatic rhythm, giving very few clues as to where things will go. As previous works have shown, this could drop into a dark and cold soundscape underscored by a great melody, or quickly escalate into a wall of noise – the band’s greatest recordings have been known to explore both extremes. In this case, the distortion falls away to reveal a pulsing rhythm that sounds like a cross between the heart of an old Cure b-side circa 1979 and the pure guts of a Bauhaus deep cut. It’s retro, but in the most exciting way, and this becomes even more obvious when the fuzz and pneumatics return, and Oliver Ackerman’s reverb drenched lead vocal adds an extra swathe of moodiness. Eventually arriving at the main hook, the repeated refrain of “this is the wall” taps into the kind of cold and impenetrable phrasing of previous works, yet at the same time, eventually becomes quite memorable.

On the flip, ‘It Is Time’ works a slow groove, over which a classic sounding lead bass weaves a very 80s inspired goth melody. It’s immediately keen to present itself as a distant descendant of The Nephilim, all the while showcasing the dark vocal strains of Ackermann, linking very strongly with previous Strangers’ recordings. Between the bass and echoing drum sound, a cold guitar weaves a siren like call and also throws out intermittent chords driven by a mass of distortion. This will be enough to make extant fans swoon with delight, but things get even more exciting when Oliver finally drowns almost the entire arrangement with a blast of distortion that’ll remind everyone that the old attitude is still there, even if it sometimes seems as if the band are mellowing. After a few spins, this rather dour piece sounds even better, and in the classic APTBS stakes, it’s got the potential to outshine the A-side. It probably should’ve been under serious consideration for a place on the album itself.

These tunes are better than mere leftovers in almost every sense. They have a little more bite than A Place To Bury Strangers’ earlier ‘Hologram’ EP, but offer far more of a melodic sensibility (relatively speaking) than 2009’s ‘Exploding Head’ and the other early noise oriented sounds that earned the band a loyal cult following. In many ways, they represent the best of all worlds. For the fans, this release is an essential collection filler.

March 2024