CD Review of Swoon by Silversun Pickups
Silversun Pickups: Swoon
Recommended if you like
Smashing Pumpkins,
Catherine Wheel, Hum
Label
Dangerbird Records
Silversun Pickups: Swoon

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

E
ver since Dave Davies took a razor and sliced holes into his Vox amplifier way back in 1964, distorted guitars have become as ubiquitous in rock as the scumbag manager. While most acts use effect pedals to color their sound, there are those who take it to entirely new levels of art: without distortion, the artsy racket of Sonic Youth or the metallic precision of Meshuggah would be impossible to truly pull off. Imagine listening to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless without the waves of noise coming from Kevin Shield’s Fender Jaguar.

That brings us to current modern rock favorites Silversun Pickups. To say that the Los Angeles combo love their stomp boxes would be a complete understatement. On Swoon, their second album, frontman Brian Aubert’s guitars pack the buzz of top-grade shoegaze, but it’s all funneled through a classic pop, verse-chorus-verse structure. The hooks come early and often, too: The opening one-two punch of "There’s No Secrets This Year" and "The Royal We" sets the mood with bouncy rhythm work from bassist Nikki Monninger and drummer Chris Guanlao, the aforementioned overdriven guitars, and Aubert’s nasally but always catchy vocal delivery.

Silversun Pickups

It’s been nearly impossible to read any coverage on the Silversun Pickups without a mention of the Smashing Pumpkins, and this album won’t change that. Sonically speaking, songs like "Panic Switch" and "Sort Of" wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Siamese Dream, but there’s more to the story than that. Silversun Pickups do utilize Billy Corgan’s formula of marrying honeyed vocal lines with crunchy guitars, but there is enough quirkiness in their musical DNA to set them apart. Besides, the Pumpkins themselves learned a lot of their tricks from the Jesus & Mary Chain and Pixies.

Produced by Dave Cooley (the Polyphonic Spree) and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Air, Idlewild), Swoon has all the warmth of an analog recording but the bite of an arena rock record when the moments call for it. The album’s winning balance of mood and tension makes beautiful use of Hoffer’s mix especially on the slower metered stuff like "Growing Old Is Getting Old." The jump-out track this time around is "Substitution" with its stop-and-go riffing, subtle dashes of keyboard and spiraling guitar solo. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s chosen as a single during the album’s campaign and we wouldn’t blame them. Modern rock radio program directors always have room for a song this magnetic.

Not only have the Silversun Pickups dodged the sophomore slump bullet, they’ve also made the kind of musical statement that will lift them from "buzz band" status to magazine cover stars. Just don’t expect the comparisons to that other band to stop in the near future.

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