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Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods – review

The Silversun Pickups have fast become one of my favorite bands over the past ten years.  I love the quiet to loud guitar laden choruses of songs like Lazy Eye, Panic Switch, and The Royal We to name a few.  I grew up listening to bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, The Afghan Whigs, and Pearl Jam, and it’s clear The Silversun Pickups did also.  You can hear those influences in their music, but they are original enough to stand out on their own.

Their third album, Neck of the Woods, starts off exactly where their last album, Swoon, left off.  The first song, Skin Graph, sounds like something that was born on the Indianapolis Speedway.  Guitars sound like Indy 500 cars, and the chorus soars into overdrive.  The first single Bloody Mary (Never Endings) is a little more ethereal than their previous work, but has the signature uplifting/heavy chorus of previous efforts, as does Make Believe and Busy Bees, whos guitar riff sounds almost identical to the bass riff from Panic Switch chugging along ferociously. It’s that guitar sound that has defined the best of what The Silversun Pickups do, and Neck of the Woods is constructed on it.

Mean Spirits, which is the best song on the album in my opinion, shows the direction that they could be heading towards, as does The Pit.  They both have heavy hard synth riffs that are reminiscent of Muse, who they toured with last year.  Obviously they influenced the band in some way.  Simmer is a song that sneaks up on you.  There are so many bombastic songs on the album, that you almost think of the song as a lengthy throw-away, but upon repeated listens you realize it’s one of the best songs on the album.  That’s how dynamic the album is.  You find a favorite song, but upon repeated listens the songs begin to one-up each other.  Not a bad problem to have if you ask me.

Brian Aubert’s vocals can be harsh sounding at times with his transgender pleading, but there’s something original and compelling about them that drives the bands work and makes this album a success.  The album is lengthy.  11 songs that comprise almost 60 minutes of rocking.  The length hurts some of these songs by dragging them out a bit at times when all you want to do is keep rocking, but it doesn’t take much away from what an impressive effort this is.  When the album does get into the rocking it is on point though, and some of these songs are the best of the bands career.  What’s strange is that some of the other songs could benefit more from an extended outro or chorus like Here We Are (Chancer), which I felt just started to get going near the end of the song.  I’m splitting hairs here though because frankly put, Neck of the Woods is the bands best effort to date.  It’s extremely focused and easily the bands best produced work to date.

I’ve always said it takes at least three full albums to fully understand the growth and direction that a band is taking.  Neck of the Woods is a hybrid of the best that their debut Carnavas and Swoon had to offer.  Neck of the Woods finishes almost stronger than it begins, which is something Swoon did not do.  The final song on the album, Out of Breath, is probably the most well constructed, and interesting track on the album from a production stand-point.  Everything is pumping on full cylinders as they close it out.

I don’t think it shows a great evolution of sound for them, but I don’t really think I was expecting one, or for that matter really wanting one.  The album shows just enough forward thinking, without completely alienating everything that they’ve done prior. Some of the songs do have a more epic vibe and sense of urgency to them, which is something the band only began to scratch the surface with on their prior efforts.  A complete abandonment of sound and form has killed many bands, and The Silversun Pickups have steered clear of that road.

The most important thing I think an album can do is grow upon you with repeated listens.  Neck of the Woods does that.  The Silversun Pickups are a great band, who continue to make great music, and everyone should be tuning in by now.

Grade:  A+