The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


A review of the album 'Swoon' by Silversun Pickups

Swoon by Silversun PickupsReview Snapshot: Competent but slightly dull sophomore release from the California-based four-piece. Following on from the success of ‘Carnavas’, their debut album, ‘Swoon’ is polished and well-played but lacks the irresistible hook of their early single ‘Lazy Eye’.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
So long as Brian Aubert sings angst-filled lyrics in a reedy-voiced manner to the background of heavily-distorted guitars, there will always be a Smashing Pumpkins reference waiting to be mentioned when discussing Silversun Pickups. From the opposite side of America they may be, but aside from the voice, guitars, female bass player and the same initials (am I stretching this?) there was the gorgeous ‘1979’-esque mellow groove of their breakthrough single ‘Lazy Eye’.

With their second release Silversun Pickups seem to have edged away slightly from early ‘90s American grunge and replaced it as a touchstone by the English shoegazing scene of the same era. Unfortunately, they appear to have also skimped on the classic rock songs that made them popular in the first place.

The album begins promisingly enough with ‘There’s No Secrets This Year’. With its taut drumming and heavily-layered guitars, it echoes the work of British shoegaze revivalists My Vitriol. On a good day, of course.

This then segues into ‘The Royal We’. Adding strings to their initial foundation, it’s a song you could imagine being sung by Evanescence, with lyrics about as emo as you could hope for. “How many times do you want to die?” asks Aubert. Well, just the once will do it for me, thanks.

The musicianship of the group impresses throughout. 'Growing Old Is Getting Old' brings Pink Floyd-like guitars to the mix before bursting into a energetic if slightly predictable nu-metal-lite climax. Whatever the band is lacking, it’s not instrumental ability. A catchy chorus or killer melody, however, would not go astray. As it is, there is no standout track on the album that looks likely to surpass or even match the promise of their earlier releases. Lead single ‘Panic Switch’ is a good example of this - technically excellent, it is easy to admire but, given its cold and clinical nature, hard to love.

‘Substitution’ is probably the closest they come to replicating their initial success - think 'You Were My Last High' by The Dandy Warhols with slightly more urgency and higher-pitched vocals. But it still promises more than it eventually delivers, which is symptomatic of the album. While the Pickups possess certain ability and the occasional noteworthy riff, very rarely does this translate into a fully-formed coherent song. Instead, very often the idea is overplayed and overlong: containing only ten tracks, the album lasts for more than fifty minutes.

The album closer ‘Surrounded Or Spiralling’ ends with a curious question: “Is it perfect in our little hell?” It’s a slightly misguided phrase; morose, carefully constructed yet frequently melodic, ‘Swoon’ never verges close to hell. Purgatory, however, seems a perfect place for where it is pitched.

Mark Townsend

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