See Through You is relentless. Depending on your preference for in-your-face noise rock and post-punk, the sixth album from A Place to Bury Strangers – their first in four years and the follow up to last year’s excellent Hologram EP – won’t necessarily tick all the boxes for all listeners. For me, the record lives in an atmosphere beyond our tiny, insular worlds. The New York-based trio now comprises long-time vocalist and guitarist Oliver Ackermann and Ceremony (also known as Ceremony East Coast) veterans Sarah Fedowitz on drums and John Fedowitz back again after a stint with the band in 2016 on bass. See Through You is also the first A Place to Bury Strangers album on Ackermann’s brand-new record label, Dedstrange.
Since founding the band in 2003, Ackermann has produced, mixed, and mastered all its albums; their latest is no exception. How do an independent label and 20 years in music affect a band’s sound? Well, in the case of A Place to Bury Strangers, that experience and freedom have resulted in the catchiest, well-rounded album the group has offered so far. The Washington Post dubbed A Place to Bury Strangers as “the most ear-shatteringly loud garage/shoegaze band you’ll ever hear” in 2012, and while that referred to their live show, their recorded output is bloody loud, too.
Listening to See Through You in lossless audio and through a good quality pair of headphones is an immense experience. Some moments, like the layered, primeval “Ringing Bells”, threaten to blow out your audio system but never do. “I Disappear (When You’re Near)” features a superbly weird fade-out, making it less accessible than the Ramones-meets-shoegaze “Anyone but You.” The album closer, “Love Reaches Out”, has found comparisons to New Order with critics, which is understandable. With Ackermann’s deadpan vocal, new-wave synths and electric drums, A Place to Bury Strangers warrant that assessment. Consequently, they prove that you can still surprise your audience 20 years into a music career by peeling back the veneer of noise rock we know and love.
“I Don’t Know How You Do It” plays like a distorted John Hughes soundtrack. Album highlight “So Low” features Sandra Fedowitz on backing vocals, while “Broken” is driven by engaging beats and an epic guitar solo between musings of being a “lousy loser.” The singles also fare very well – the second single, “Hold on Tight”, is almost industrial metal in its force. The raw “I’m Hurt” highlights an intense flashing melody, gradually building ridiculous walls of chaos. “I’m Hurt” sees Ackermann trying to regain his faith in humanity and follows a dying friendship:
“The drums build with this frustration and a desire to scream with no voice. Listen closely to the vocal phrasing of ‘I’m Hurt’ in the chorus, and you can hear the self-doubt and failure I was experiencing at the time,” he shared in a press release.
It’s one of the few tracks where I care to decipher the lyrics (alongside “Let’s See Each Other”) because most of the time, I’m trying not to have my head blown off from sheer noisy awesomeness.
See Through You only gets better with repeated listens. At first, while the walls of sound are impeccably tasty, it isn’t easy to emotionally latch on. It’s hard to find yourself in these 13 barraging songs. But it’s so satisfying to watch A Place to Bury Strangers maintain longevity in an industry that brutally parts with trends as soon as the next fad appears. This band is unashamedly garish, unceasingly loud, and at times, depending on your taste, their albums can be interminable. I don’t know about you, but I’d be happy with never-ending songs when they’re this good.