Sneaking up on us in an instant and suddenly hitting us with a barrage of melodies and textures seemingly out of every corner of the speakers, A Place to Bury Strangers’ arrangement of electrified strings in “Playing the Part” immediately brings to mind the nauseating sting of Dead Kennedys and Bauhaus, though it fails to sound like a complete throwback to the old school in punk rock. There’s an anxiety breaching the line between linguistic and sonic expression in this performance, and the longer you stick around for the action, the more kinetic and incendiary it becomes in “Playing the Part.”
There’s a lot more to the urgency in this single than what the beat provides alone, and I think that there’s even a case to be made for the percussion following the jittery strut of the guitar parts more than it does the bassline or even our lead singer here. It’s as though we’re running from something alongside A Place to Bury Strangers, and their insistent nudging is almost too high-tempo for what the drums can keep up with in this song. In some instances, this might make the material sound fractured, but in this track, it sounds perfect for the mood the band wants to create.
You can’t ignore the goth undertones in “Playing the Part,” as noted by my acknowledgment of the Bauhaus influence over the intro to the song, but I wouldn’t call this a straight-up goth track at all. There’s a proto-alternative rock component to the fluidity of the verses and, more specifically, what kind of emotionality they’re illustrating without the assistance of their instrumental backdrop here, but at the same time what A Place to Bury Strangers is playing is almost a little too mathy and thoughtful to brand with any previously utilized terminology in pop music.
The post-punk aesthetics of the old guard certainly live and die by the structure of “Playing the Part,” and I’d say that the technical approach these musicians are taking to the music puts them in line with a lot of the great innovators in rock to have come before them. They’re not necessarily breaking all the rules, but they’re refusing to exist within a preconceived set of parameters otherwise reserved for bands who want to repeat, or at the very least recycle, elements of a faded glory impossible to relive in 2021.
I honestly just found out about A Place to Bury Strangers a little while ago, but I’m stoked at the potential they’re unleashing in this full-spectrum rock performance. The instrumental aspect of the track is admittedly dizzying at times, but when paired up with the visuals of the music video for “Playing the Part,” we start to see the makings of an artistry that could be just the provocative kick in the pants contemporary indie rock needs to stay relevant on a level above college radio. A Place to Bury Strangers have a fearless mentality here, and I hope it only gets stronger as they press on in their career.
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