Arriving with 2006’s Carnavas, Silversun Pickups were heralded by some as the future of modern alternative rock; by others as a bad Smashing Pumpkins tribute band. Now three years later, all comparisons brushed aside, they return with their sophomore record.
Swoon kicks off with “There’s No Secrets This Year”, which is to say kicks off, then not, and then off again. It’s a false start that lands them uncomfortably in the “trying too hard” camp. The seemingly random time signature changes are interesting on the first listen but repeated delves show it to be an unnecessary distraction from what could have been a fairly good opener.
Next up “The Royal We” continues a worrying theme. Although Silversun Pickups won’t be the last band to fall into this trap, they have resorted to the time honoured tradition of turning down the volume for their second album while padding out their sound from their newly acquired budget with strings and vocal effects aplenty. Production shouldn’t be “use it or lose it” and unfortunately, just because you can afford to replicate a certain sound, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to improve some what.
First single “Panic Switch” can probably best sum Swoon up. It’s competent enough, but really should sound better than it does. Unfortunately it’s just too over produced and fomulaic. The loud-quiet-loud routine has been perfected by bands a lot better than Silversun Pickups and you really have to offer something new if its going to be successful. “Draining” and “Sort Of” show off the band’s influences to a tee. “Draining” is a sub 1990s alt-rock ballad that just seems to plod along, lacking the essential ingredient that could make it soar. “Sort Of” is the other side of the coin, a rocker of competent enough proportions unfortunately drowned under waves of fuzz guitar and strings. It gasps for air but its cries are in vain.
It’s not all disappointment though. “Substitution” is the record’s highlight; restrained crackling guitar backed with Brian Aubert’s most heartfelt vocal performance. It really shows that less is more — turn down the effects and Silversun Pickups demonstrate how they can shine.
What is ultimately lacking from Swoon, and this must show me to be the fickle bugger I am, is at least one killer single. Where as Carnavas had “Little Lovers So Polite” and “Lazy Eye” Swoon blends into itself a little too much and rather than becoming a record that has to be listened to from beginning to end to gain a full understanding, simply melds into one long bland whole. Clearly Silversun Pickups are trying to branch out their sound to epic proportions, unfortunately in doing so they have ended up reigning in their best asset — their songs
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