Somewhere between their excellent last album Worship and their new release Transfixiation, it seems A Place To Bury Strangers have somewhat lost their way. Not to say that Transfixiation is a bad album: it’s just ultimately rather mediocre.
Part of the problem seems to be a lack of focus. Whereas on their previous albums, APTBS struck a healthy balance between a screeching wall of sound and a strong reliance on melody and structure, here they never quite find the optimal point. Some songs, like album opener Supermaster and the fast paced Straight are too streamlined to provide any genuine surprises, whereas others like Love High are oversaturated in sound, becoming disjointed and oddly underwhelming.
As in the past, the influence of My Bloody Valentine is obvious on Transfixiation. But unlike APTBS’ other albums, where the MBV nods enhanced the experience, here they only detract from it. The opening strains of What We Don’t See are so reminiscent of the bruised and beautiful sounds of Kevin Shields and his gang that the song almost feels like a parody. It’s one thing to acknowledge legends of a genre: it’s an entirely different thing to so unashamedly ape their sound that you inevitably come up short.
Not to say Transfixiation is entirely without its pleasures. The six minute plus Deeper has an impressively slow build, and the repetitive lyrics have an eerily hypnotic power. Similarly, Now It’s Over boasts a darkly intoxicating tone, with the reverb laden vocals and screeching guitars complementing each other perfectly. Both songs serve to remind listeners what the band can do when they’re on form: on a good day, few can match APTBS’ ability to combine fuzz and melody.
But on the whole, the songs of Transfixiation blister past with little weight or substance. Album closer I Will Die is a whimper rather than a bang, despite its ear-splitting volume, and leaves the listener desperately wanting more.
It’s sad to see such a great band turn in such a lacklustre record. In the end, one can only hope APTBS recapture former glories by the time they turn in their next release. After all, as a great man once said: you’ve gotta have faith.