Brooklyn, a place synonymous with people in tight jeans and lacking in social graces, has in fact supplied us with some talent in the last decade, despite a huge amount of attention being spent on the look rather than sound of a band. APTBS have over the years kept ear-bleeding afficionados constantly supplied with enough material to guarantee everyone has tinnitus by the age of 30. With 2 full lengths under their belts, and numerous EP’s they return with the five song, Onwards To The Wall as an “amuse-bouche” before their new album is rumoured to drop sometime in 2012.
Taking away the direct connection between Psychocandy and most of APTBS’s output, what really captivated people in the early days and set the band apart from most other noise-meisters was their screeching ability to control the uncontrollable. Guitars that seemed destined to overheat, amps running red, pedals draining batteries faster than they could be replaced. Despite having forgotten how to write songs in the early days, the noise and delivery more than made up for the fragmented shells that lay beneath. After a few years in the game now, and with time to develop their songwriting skills it seems that the thirst for maturity has depleted the band of what was magical about them at the time. “Onwards To The Wall” becomes almost a cover band doing a version of APTBS without the right equipment to get that KICK.
Songs aside, even the sounds are more dominated and controlled. There is more attention on how the guitars flail instead of just allowing them to thrust out of the sound-collage like an earache. From the fairly successful opening track, through to the dull and uninspiring “So Far Away” which bellies forth with a Nyquil lackadaisical numbness that neither sedates or excites, “Onwards to the Wall” is a half-attempt at an 80’s post-punk tune wrapped in shoegaze drony guitars which is only marginally successful. A slight return to form can be heard on “It’ll be alright” with it’s breaking, hissing guitars wafting in and out from the steady drums. “Drill it up” rounds off the EP, sliding slowly off into an abyss of tame drum machines and Serena-Maneesh sounding guitars (which isn’t surprizing since Oliver made the pedals).
New ground is not being broken here. Old ground is not being revisited. It seems the band is stuck in two minds on which way to proceed, to sacrifice the harshness of old in the light of creating stronger songs, or to just abandon the whole reason they became respected and start treading the paths of wimpier Brooklyn bands who have nothing to offer but 3 seconds in the limelight. With a couple of highlights, the rest of the songs become a mundane background hum to light a cigarette to and stare out the window wondering where A Place To Bury Strangers ever disappeared to.