Review Summary: There isn’t as much distortion or truly hard rocking, but the music itself is still incredibly well-crafted, and benefits highly from repeated listens. Nothing here is “minimal,” the focus is just in a different place. Thankfully, it appears to be a
I’ve never understood why alternative/indie rock outfit Silversun Pickups are constantly compared to 90’s alternative/grunge rockers Smashing Pumpkins. Is it the fact that both of their names form the acronym SP? That must be it, because the similarities sure as hell aren’t incredibly inherent in their respective musical catalogs, unless excessive use of fuzz effects automatically makes you a Pumpkins wannabe.
Considerably baseless comparisons aside, I have always seen Silversun Pickups as a group that can stand alone fairly strong on their collective merits. The vocals are unique, the basslines are legitimately intricate (and also played by a girl!), and the song structures are designed in such a fashion that the only word descriptive enough for them is “epic.” But then, you realize that every would-be hipster in America beat that word to a pulp, and it just doesn’t pack the same punch as it used to. You’re forced to find a different word. Larger-than-life, perhaps? Thank you, Microsoft Word synonym finder.
This brings us to Silversun Pickups’ latest offering, Neck of the Woods. The cover artwork screams “minimal,” and when the first track, “Skin Graph”, hits your eardrums, you may be inclined to believe that’s the direction they have taken. However, it doesn’t take more than a minute or two to realize this isn’t entirely the case, as the song goes from a calming chorusey guitar twang to a signature anthemic chorus with impeccable speed and grace.
“Make Believe” opens by showcasing Christopher Guanlao’s off-beat and appropriately distinctive drumming, before further drawing the listener into a blend of electronic blips, shakers, and an almost worldly-influenced vocal arrangement.
“Here We Are” is a more down-tempo offering, which features more use of electronic percussion combined with delay-laden guitars intended to calm you into a sleep-like state before kicking your face in with “Mean Spirits,” the heavy rocker of the album. Given the rather slow pace of the first half of the album, this song comes out of nowhere, and is a welcomed addition to the track listing. When the hook finally comes in, it will bring a shiver up the back of your neck. The riffs here are nothing short of impressive. This is truly the “Panic Switch” of the album.
The second half of the album is significantly less consistent than the rest of the album. While none of the songs are necessarily bad or unpleasant to listen to, “The Pit” and “Gun-Shy Sunshine” are the only ones that seem to stand out as memorable affairs.
Silversun Pickups are one of my favorite working bands today, and this album has done nothing to deter me from that opinion. If Swoon was a dialed back Carnavas, then Neck of the Woods is a dialed back Swoon. There isn’t as much distortion or truly hard rocking, but the music itself is still incredibly well-crafted, and benefits highly from repeated listens. Nothing here is “minimal,” the focus is just in a different place. Thankfully, it appears to be a great, comfortable place for the band.