Music: A Place to Bury Strangers, ICA, London, December 8th, 2008

A Place To Bury Strangers look a dead cert to make the leap from the backwaters of MySpace and neo-psychedelic websites into the broader indie consciousness. They've had a good kick in the right direction by landing a plumb European support slot with psych pop pompadours MGMT who kindly unleashed them for long enough to play a few of their own headline gigs around the UK. APTBS (as their merch badges clumsily call them) have been bracketed in with the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine comebacks, as well as other darkly beatiful 80s bands including Echo and the Bunnymen and Depeche Mode. On tonight's evidence, they are as close to current NME darlings Crystal Castles as they are to the work of Messers Reid and Shields, and that could be the key to them breaking out of the dark pop ghetto.


If tonight's turn out was anything to go by, they already have a widespread appeal – everyone from overgrown NME and Drowned in Sound readers to older Q-reading beardy musos and a few electro kids with silly hair (Vice?) were in the sold out crowd tonight. Hell, I think I even saw a few proper (ish) punks throwing themselves around tonight (they don't read, just break stuff). 

On stage, they look almost exactly like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (another obvious musical reference, who they've supported in the past) did when they were good: a three piece, longish hair, singer stood as far to the edge of the stage as they can get. Highlight for me (given the part of the world I'm from) was the bassist, the fantasticaly named Jono MOFO, apparently from South Wales himself despite the band being Brooklyn-based, sporting a Cardiff City Soul Crew t-shirt.You read that right. 

To be honest, I'm never going to be one to trash a fellow Bluebirds fan (let alone one who professes to be part of one of Europe's most notorious hooligan crews), so it's just as well they were sonically outstanding, so I don't have to type through gritted teeth. 

A Place to Bury Strangers are all about noise. Big helpings of loud, suffocating NOISE, backed up by a throbbing electro beat. As soon as they take the stage, its like being in the coolest East Berlin bar you've ever imagined. That, or sleazy nightclub band in a low-budget vampire movie. Starting slowly, and fairly reservedly they but soon collapse inwardly into full heads down, blur of motion, standing underneath an aeroplane as it takes off-mode.  Think My Bloody Valentine's legendary staple encore You Make Me Realise as a starting point. It's difficult to pinpoint particular highlights amongst the set's gradual crescendo – the crowd-pleasing (but probably not Radio 2-friendly) 'To Fix The Gash In Your Head' did it for me, but after 40 minutes the band get particularly evil – the strobes edge out the visuals and we get a roaring version of set closer Ocean. 

It's hard to pick holes in such a blistering set (particularly from a band with a Cardiff City supporting bassist), but one area they full down against the likes of the Mary Chain and MBV is making a more senstive use of dynamics.They may rely on total sonic annihilation for some people's tastes. Once they learn to master the light as well as the darkness, they'll be unstoppable. 

Support tonight came from The Sian Alice Group, a band I've been meaning to check out for some time. They came across as a little too trendy, perhaps even a little smug for some, but had a couple of wonderful rock-out psych jams in their set. Makes me want to pull out the CD that's remained unplayed on my shelf for a couple of months….

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