In the past ten years, A Place To Bury Strangers have wrought hellfire out of their piercing guitar tones courtesy of Death By Audio guitar pedals and the sheer volume of their live concerts. A Place To Bury Strangers also seems to have become a niche band because of their limiting approach to making music and they’ve positioned themselves for a change.
On their fifth release, Pinned, lead Oliver Ackermann and bassist Dion Lunadon are joined by their new drummer, Lia Simone Braswell who also takes over some vocal duties. This new change dramatically alters the sound of A Place To Bury Strangers and gives it a girl/guy dynamic on several songs albeit in the vein of a heavier Raveonettes. Whether that’s your cup of tea is a moot point, A Place To Bury Strangers were seeming to stagnate and by changing up the vocal dynamic, they’ve injected some life into the old dog.
Pinned is an album that starts out strong and seems to fizzle out towards the end. Pinned opens up with the driving rhythm of “Never Coming Back” which explodes with aplomb as it reaches it’s pressure-cooked crescendo courtesy of Ackermann’s guitar theatrics. “Execution” features a wonky guitar intro tone and some very syncopated drumming and serves as the leadup to the vocal tug of war on “There’s Only One Of Us.” “Situations Changes” is a more subdued and resigned track that accents Lunadon’s rubbery bass line that propels the tune throughout.
“Too Tough To Kill” is where Pinned starts to falter. The stop-start rhythms and the meshing of the vocals don’t particularly work. The new wave of “Frustrated Operator” fares better but the non-sequiturs contained in the track “hot potato” kill the overall mood that the song is trying to convey. “Look Me In The Eye” is a noise piece that sides up against the first ballad, “Was It Electric,” A Place To Bury Strangers has ever done. “Was It Electric” features a lilting guitar and a subtle duet between Ackermann and Braswell. “Act Your Age” serves a late album highlight with its drones and swaths of sound and finds the band on familiar territory. The drum machine heavy closer, “Keep Moving On” feels as oppressive and draining as its sentiment and it highlights a future that’s as grim as the present.