Cardiff Barfly 8 November 2009

One of the drawbacks of partaking in alcohol at a gig is that at some point I will invariably gravitate towards the merchandising stall when under the influence. Therefore, apart from a T shirt collection running into the hundreds, I also have mugs by bands I don't like (Bloc Party), a stick of rock from Supergrass and an embossed pebble (I kid you not) from Catatonia. So on entering the Barfly my first port of call was inevitably the small table selling branded paraphernalia for tonight's headliners A Place to Bury Strangers. And there in the mist of various CDs, records and hoodies was the must have-have item for this season.... a pair of branded ear plugs....for the very reasonable price of only one of your earth pounds. Little did I realise how useful they later would become.

I arrived just in time to see support band the JAPANDROIDS. Prior to attending I noticed that their drummer was called David Prowse, however I was mildly disappointed to find that it wasn't the actor who played Darth Vader/Green Cross Code man on drums, but one of a a duo who hail from Vancouver,British Colombia. Lead singer Brian King is nothing if not energetic and thrashes around the stage like some demented muppet, hair flailing in every direction and hammering his guitar to within an inch of its life. His vocal style contained a lot whooping mid- number, and whilst I know absolutely nothing of their musical output, overall I can vouch for their set being raucous but ultimately pleasing. Indeed their inter-song banter was to be in stark contrast to the headliners who would shortly arrive. Apparently Japandroid will be again touring the UK in the new year and should be checked out if they visit your neighbourhood.

Pix - Patthead
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After a short interlude the (perfumed) dry ice machines went into overdrive with the stage, and half the venue, became submerged in a dense cloud of fog. Slowly, but surely, silhouettes became visible as the self acclaimed "Loudest band in New York" A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS emerged from the gloom. There's no greetings, no introductions, no words to the faithful, just the opening salvo in a sensory bombardment that would last the best part of the next hour. Each ear shattering song is coupled with flickering projections and a disconcerting light show that gives the same effect as a sharp punch to the solar plexus. The cacophony of noise continues unabated with each number bleeding into the following and therefore making it difficult to differentiate individual tracks in the wall of sound. However I was able to pick out "To Fix the Gash in Your Head", "Ocean" and "In Your Heart", the latter from their new release "Exploding Head".

Whilst they were not necessarily as loud as I expected, this could well be more to do with the fact that a lifetime of gig-going could be making me deaf, as a considerable number of people in the audience resorted to the afore mentioned ear plugs or just stood there looking rather absurd with their fingers in their ears. Realistically they borrow heavily from Jesus and Mary Chain, with elements of New Order thrown into the mix. At times I wondered if they were trying to recreate the feel of the Andy Warhol's Factory in the late '60, with the scrambling of your senses bordering on the hallucinogenic. There was no let up in their sonic attack and at one point I could physically feel my clothes vibrate under the onslaught. The latter numbers were played out to a barrage of strobe lights that no doubt pleased the epileptic members of the audience. And then in a welter of feedback and reverb they were gone. No goodbyes. No thank you. Not one word spoken to the audience all night.

A Place to Bury Strangers. Aloof? Maybe. Loud? Definitely. Worth the hype? I'll get back to you on that after my ears stop ringing!