Sunday, September 8, 2013

Swoon - Silversun Pickups

Silversun Pickups
Dangerbird Records  DGB035V

This is the deluxe version of the band's second album.  I normally avoid that sort of thing, but I found this at a price below what the album itself was selling for at the time, so I jumped on it.  I believe it originally cost around 80 or 90 bucks which is absurd.  The deluxe version comes in a box (first two pictures above) and includes the double record gatefold album (next three pictures), a booklet (bottom picture) that features pictures of the band and lyrics, a t-shirt, some buttons and stickers, and a lithograph of the cover art for the album (all of the art work is taken from paintings by Darren Waterston.)  Although they are a local band, I did not catch them live until they were already an established act to my subsequent regret.  I first became aware of them when I saw them on a local music show and then saw the video for "Well Thought Out Twinkles" which blew me away.  When I did finally see them live I knew they were the real deal, it was a thrilling show.  This is my favorite of their three full length albums.  Side A opens with "There's No Secrets This Year."  It is a break-up song in which the protagonist explains why he is leaving.  The song is typical of the band's sound - an insistent and distorted guitar riff, Brian Aubert's urgent, breathy vocal, Christopher Guanlao's hyperactive drumming and a hypnotic, pulsing bass line from Nikki Monninger.  The relationship troubles continue with "The Royal We" which uses imagery of war and violence to describe an impending break-up.  The song starts slow, driven by the drone of Joe Lester's synth, but then the drums kick in and the song rocks out big time with lots of guitar and synth noise and a passionate vocal from Aubert.  It is one of my favorite songs on the album.  Side B begins with "Growing Old is Getting Old" which is about growing old comfortably and gracefully.  The song is driven by a melodic bass riff from Monninger with atmospheric synth work from Lester.  Then the song shifts gears about two thirds of the way through with an exciting rave up that carries the song to its finish.  The side concludes with "Nice To Know You Work Alone" which is another break-up song with some very evocative lyrics, very powerful.  The hard rocking verses are driven by steady riffing from Aubert's guitar and Monninger's bass, but the more melodic chorus is dominated by the ethereal sounds from Lester on his synthesizer and a string section. Their big hit off the album "Panic Switch" is the opening track on Side C.  It is an extraordinary song laced with anxiety and desperation.  It is enigmatic but I believe it refers to another deteriorating relationship.  It features a killer bass riff from Monninger which propels the song with relentless energy supplemented by Guanlao's manic drumming.  I've heard this super-charged song countless times and I still find it mesmerizing.  It is my favorite of all their songs.  There are more love woes in "Draining" which is about being exhausted by a bad relationship.  This is a slower and moodier tune with a pretty instrumental passage in the middle.  Slow or fast, the Silversun Pickups' music is always compelling.  They ramp up the energy again for "Sort Of" which also features love problems, but it has a slightly more optimistic tone as Aubert urges his lover to keep reaching for him.  Musically it resembles "Panic Switch" with another fabulous bass riff and sustained musical tension.  Side D starts with "Substitution" which is full of bleak imagery as the song describes outside forces that threaten his relationship but there is some hope as Aubert offers his lover his supply of stones to throw at their detractors.  The song has a lot of guitar noise but it is poppy and upbeat as well which reinforces it's more positive spirit.  "Catch and Release" uses fishing metaphors to grimly describe a seduction.  It is another slow, moody song whose melancholy feeling is accentuated by mournful string passages.  "Surrounded (or Spiraling)" is the darkest and bitterest song on an album full of dark, bitter songs.  It is a devastating portrait of a relationship that has turned into "our little hell."  The song describes the downward spiral of a relationship from its promising beginning to lies and recriminations.  It is a noisy, rocked up song with a desperate vocal from Aubert that provides a fittingly gloomy and intense finale for an album that examines the ugly side of love with unrelenting confessions of despair and an almost masochistic honesty.  Despite the downbeat subject matter, I find the album exhilarating to listen to.  The music is so energetic and sincere that it is very emotionally stimulating which I think is a quality lacking in a lot of alternative rock.  The lack of irony and the commitment to self-expression and truth on this album is something I respect and admire.  I consider this to be one of the best albums of the past decade, there is not a mediocre song on it and it features a consistently high level of musical and lyrical creativity.  Recommended to anyone who has ever been in a bad relationship.

No comments:

Post a Comment