Exploding Head, the second album from New York City trio, A Place to Bury Strangers, may just be the most fitting album title of the year… because the album does exactly that. Picking up where their self-titled debut album finished, Exploding Head is a feedback-drenched, pedal-driven, atmospheric smash of psychedelic-like rock.
The album opens with “It is Nothing,” a brazenly simplistic garage rock tune that has taken a serious bath in a shoegazing, droned-out swamp of rock. Guitar/vocalist Oliver Ackerman’s voice hauntingly drones over an absolutely dirty sound, thoroughly drenched in distortion — enough to make APTBS proudly proclaim to be one of the, if not the, loudest band in New York City. After just three minutes, “It is Nothing” feels like ten, but not in a bad way. APTBS never let up once it gets going, and the sheer sonic assualt is still peppered with the beauty of rock and roll. You aren’t completely blown away; it’s just that everything keeps your eyes going and searching for what happened.
“Lost Feeling” builds slowly — almost painfully slowly. But when it is all said and done, A Place to Bury Strangers hit you with a literal brick wall of soundwaves. The distortion kicks in, and what is done is done. Exploding Head has done what it set out to do. So, while it all fades away behind a tribal-like bassy drumbeat from drummer Jay Space, you are once again left to try and gather your wits to figure out what happened. This time around, Ackerman throws in grating effects combined with little bluesy plucks. Giving way to the old-time rock and roll sound, the distortion shreds whatever notion of peace “Lost Feeling” was building to.
There is a good reason for all the hype behind A Place to Bury Strangers. The trio has perfectly melded droning distortion with a rock and roll beat. With little ’80s space rock moments mixed in amongst the shoegaze, the new breed and batch of distortion-driven rock is done best by this New York City trio. As good as their self-titled debut may have been, Exploding Head is a declaration of war on the eardrums. The enemy isn’t APTBS, but your own well-being. Losing your hearing has never been so beautiful or necessary in life, so give in to the distorted pleasure that is Exploding Head and let the trio do what it came to do.