Three years after their previous album, “Swoon,” Silversun Pickups have made a successful reentry into the alternative rock scene with their third album, “Neck of the Woods.” A departure from their earlier work, “Neck of the Woods” displays a new sound and direction for the band. The shoegazer favorites have always been consistent with their sound. From their much acclaimed debut album “Carnavas” to the embraced “Swoon,” Silversun Pickups announce their return with their loud and heavy opening track “Skin Graph.”
The Grammy-nominated band has once been called one of the most successful indie bands to come out of LA, and it’s no wonder—the band (lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Aubert, bassist/vocalist Nikki Monninger, drummer Chris Guanlao and keyboardist/sound manipulator Joe Lester) not only sounds magnificent on record, but also holds true to the same sound and emotional intensity live. After the success of their previous album “Swoon,” which hit the number 7 spot on the US Billboard 200, the band opted to stay with their relatively small label, Dangerbird, foregoing offers from various major label companies.
The album’s first single “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” became an immediate hit, receiving heavy air time on the radios. The reason being, of course, is that “Bloody Mary” is the most reminiscent of “Swoon” and “Carnavas.” However, “Neck of the Woods” is a far cry from its predecessors; the sounds are more sprawled out—when it’s heavy, it’s heavy, when it’s soft, it’s soft. In their earlier albums, each track was embedded with the same formula: hard intros and anguish-filled choruses fading into a gentle ending, or a soft intro with a dramatic crescendo and exploding guitar riffs at the end. In “Neck of the Woods,” Silversun Pickups experiment and expands their sound. “Gun-Shy Sunshine” and “Out of Breath” are two of the mellower tracks on the album, but Aubert’s vocals paired with pronounced bass lines and drum beats make these tracks just as enjoyable as the noisy ones. From these two, it’s clear that SSPU are relying less on their signature cacophonous distortions and more on their true musical capabilities.
However, despite their efforts, one thing that’s lacking is distinguishable qualities between each track. If enough attention is paid, each song can be appreciated for its individuality. However, as a whole, the album lacks personality. Whereas fans can list songs off of the top of their heads from previous albums, in “Neck of the Woods” it’s a little bit harder to pick that one song that really stands out from the rest and can be called a favorite.
“Neck of the Woods” sounds more like a transitional album for SSPU. While certain tracks like “The Pit,” “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)” and their single “Bloody Mary (Never Endings)” are sure to enjoy exposure, the album as a whole is missing the intensity and anguish that defines the Silversun Pickups. It’s highly commendable for a made band like SSPU to explore newer styles and sounds, but it doesn’t feel as polished or as put-together as it should. “Neck of the Woods” isn’t boring by any means, and the lyrics are as catchy as ever, but it doesn’t satisfy those who crave the way Silversun Pickups can get down and dirty with their distortions and the indescribable feeling of hearing Monninger back Aubert’s vocal in some of their hardest tracks.
“Neck of the Woods” is a great effort, and it definitely shows the versatility and the growth of the band. It just didn’t have the edge or the gusty-ness that could have made this album their greatest yet.