Describing Los Angeles based Silversun Pickups is a maddening task. They have a number of ingredients that sound quite familiar, but they also have a number of ingredients that are quite unique. On the surface, they’re an Alternative band that seems to pull quite a bit of their sound from The Smashing Pumpkins, but they also have elements that resemble Sonic Youth, and to some degree, a less theatrical Coheed and Cambria.
Their latest album, released in 2009 entitled Swoon is an interesting record to say the least. It’s a record that has grown on me during more recent listens, as initially I was disappointed with it as a whole. I felt that it was almost too pretentious on the surface. It felt very aware of itself, and each song seemed to swirl into phases of excess, and not the positive type.
The shortest song on the album clocks in at 4:40. And these aren’t epic songs by any means. They were like great movies that tack on an extra bit in the third act, when everything has been resolved and there is nothing more to really gain by continuing. So I put the album away for a couple weeks, assured myself that my expectations had just been too high, and thought that if I let it digest and then put the album back on it would click like I thought it would initially. And this is exactly what happened.
Upon subsequent listens, the songs don’t feel pretentious or overblown as they did at first. They don’t seem to have swallowed themselves by the time each song ends. The guitar distortion sounds less gimmicky and plays more like an homage to the mid 90s grunge era. “There’s No Secrets This Year” kicks the album off appropriately, rocking fast and sets the tone for the better part of the album. The next song “The Royal We” starts out delicately enough, but it wastes no time picking up, throwing in the staple of major second album releases (an orchestral element). And as the album goes on, it succeeds more than it fails.
“Growing Old Is Getting Old” is a brooding song which provides quite a mysterious ambiance. “Panic Switch” is a stand out song on the album, with a jumpy bass line and quicker and more aggressive drumming. “Sort Of” boasts the best guitar work toward the end of the song as a piece of delicious distorted pie.
The last three songs on the album are the strongest set of songs to be found on Swoon. “Substitution” is another fast paced song that sounds like it could’ve been pulled right off a Smashing Pumpkins album, and “Catch and Release” is similar to the earlier “The Royal We” as it starts off delicately, implements some orchestral strings, and builds up toward a grand finale except that on this song, it never really picks up in tempo. “Surrounded (Or Spiraling)” is a good album closer, as it properly highlights the strengths of the band without sounding particularly recycled.
Overall, the album is good. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I imagine it will hold up well upon subsequent listens as it has already grown on me quite a bit. It’s almost a throwback album to 90s Alternative Rock, distorted guitars and vocals that sound equal parts angry and pained at the same time.
Final Score: 6.75/10 (Okay)