Neck of the Woods
May 16, 2012 Web Exclusive
If the cover image on Silversun Pickups' new album seems alluringly Hitchcockian, leave the lights on when you give the record a spin. The L.A. band has never been a Prozac popper, but the 11 tracks on Neck of the Woods takes moody to a whole other psychological level—one that moves beyond science to a technological outsmarting.
On this album more than their two previous releases (2006's debut Carnavas and 2009's Swoon), the Pickups lay siege with an electronic blitz, arming their dashingly '90s-inspired alt rock with lush loops and thick layers of programming that bare the band's teeth as an intimidating aggressor of modern rock. If you thought they brought the gruff on "Lazy Eye" and "Panic Switch," you ain't seen nothing yet. Just go ahead and turn the volume up on the shredder "Mean Spirits," we dare you.
The album literally opens with alarms and whistles on the six-minute saga "Skin Graph," a bolstering track that revs up the album on all pistons. It's classic Silversun Pickups garage rock with a souped-up alternator that moves from whispered guitar lines to a high-speed axe assault, and all the while singer Brian Aubert is lamenting that the "skin I'm in feels ordinary." If this band feels ordinary, then the rest of indie rock should seriously consider chemical peels.
Lucky for listeners, not one track on the album is under five minutes, each song allowed the necessary incubation period to develop and grow without ever losing a limb. Songs such as the Reznor-laced "Simmer" and the OK Computer-inspired slow jam "Here We Are (Chancer)" build breath-gasping momentum before manipulating new arrangements that give the songs a double identity. This facet is no more apparent than on "Gun-Shy Sunshine," a song that oddly fuses hints of Soundgarden with Portishead low-tempo to great effect. If there were a study guide on how rock can survive in the digital age, this would be it. (www.silversunpickups.com)
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