Yeah, but: in defense of A Place to Bury Strangers’ “Worship”

The August 2012 issue of Uncut ran a brief review by Graeme Thomson of A Place to Bury Strangers’ new full-length album, Worship. Thomson’s knack for essentials and his bullshit detector are both gifts to the music-listening public, but his write-up seemed generally dismissive of an album that deserves more column inches than it’s been given. As Thomson concludes on a few tracks:

“…their resolve seems to weaken: ‘Fear’ is rather orthodox rock, ‘Dissolve’ Joy Division-lite, while ‘And I’m Up’ repays an ongoing debt to The Jesus & Mary Chain to diminishing effect.”

Without exactly disagreeing with him on any particulars, I’d just add that Worship is also exactly the kind of album that A Place to Bury Strangers’ fans have been waiting for.

Worship album cover

While it is their first full album since Exploding Head in 2009, the brief interim has seen two generously-laden EPs, several singles and a live record. Which, in effect, makes their recording career a nice imitation of their touring life. APTBS is a band that rarely gets to unpack the van. And if filling a twenty-day schedule with twenty shows mean they have to play a few taco shops and coffee houses in between big-room sets, then that’s what they do. I think that’s partly work ethic, but it’s also their answer to the call of celebrity in the present age. Musicians and their fans live in a shrinking world, and one result of that shrink is a hunger on the part of fans to get ‘inside’ a band’s work—to occasionally peek behind the curtain, say hi, and see what’s new. APTBS are light on artifice and heavy on sound, and I worry that’s occasionally misread as an amateurish quality.

The criticisms of borrowed inspirations also seem, to me, to miss the point. That APTBS owes something to The Jesus & Mary Chain or Joy Division is descriptive, but it’s worn on their sleeve. In fact, with the dissolution of Sonic Youth, APTBS may well be next in the line as vanguards of the noise-rock sound. Maybe it’s a small tribe, but it could do far worse for pathfinders. All accusation that the band is struggling to pay it back notwithstanding, they’re doing a damned good job of paying it forward.

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