Words: Paul Page
Los Angeles based alt- rockers Silversun Pickups have spent the best part of nine years and two albums fending off accusations that they are little more than Smashing Pumpkins copyists. A cursory listen to either of their first two albums and it is easy to see why they drew comparisons to Billy Corgans angst-ridden grunge merchants –it’s there in the nasal, whiney vocals and the fuzzed up riffs. But scratch below the surface, and there has always been a little bit more to them than that.
On this their third album, the Pickups set about exploding the Smashing Pumpkins wannabes myth once and for all and deliver their best effort to date in the process. Neck of the Woods is an occasionally thrilling and explosive listen, as they take the standard guitar shapes of alternative rock and twist them into something compelling and original.
Neck of the Woods is at its best when it is at its most restrained –the deliciously sinister opening songs ‘Skin Graph’ and ‘Make Believe’ show a new side to the Pickups – dark and brooding atmospherics, holding off on the big payoff until just the right moment. Occasionally, they teeter on the brink of descending into full on Muse- like bombast, but even in these moments, they still manage to pull it out of the bag with a killer chorus or subtle change of direction.
‘Mean Spirits’ starts like something Rage against the Machine might knock out in rehearsal, surfing along on a juggernaut riff to telling effect, while ‘Gun-Shy Sunshine’ takes things down a notch , incorporating understated electronic effects and some of the records most melodic moments. With Neck of the Woods, the Silversun Pickups have taken a big leap forward. Rock music has been short of true innovators for some time now, and while this isn’t exactly a game changer, there is plenty here to suggest that the Pickups are finding their own voice, and making inventive, exciting music along the way.