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Music Review: Silversun Pickups – Swoon

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My spirit really explodes when I hear comparisons being made with The Smashing Pumpkins. Honest to God, I have so much respect for the Pumpkins. Nevertheless, I am baffled at the link between the two.

The singers of both bands happen to have the same sugary, cherubic tone of voice paired with distorted guitars. I feel sorry for SSPU singer Brian Aubert and bassist/backup singer Nikki Monninger, who have to address the “Pumpkins issue” in interviews. They were not influenced by them. End of story.

I’ll “tell you a secret. I’ll make it perfectly clear.” Silversun Pickups are a regular 21st century band. Nothing too fancy, no narcissistic or egotistical rock stars here. They work hard and tour for extended periods of time. Could you see yourself in a crowded room listening to them belt out tunes from Swoon? I sure can. No lights and no sequins. Just straight and honest music.

When you watch them live, there are smiles after every track. They are true, satisfied, professional musicians. This allows me to have a little more faith in the industry.

“Lazy Eye” (from debut album Carnavas) convinced me that Aubert was a girl. As for Swoon? There are more grungy moments in this album, less screaming and more melodies to get your hip toes tapping.

Aubert’s voice is what makes this band unrivaled. Comparisons can’t be made, even if the commonly held principle is that they are the Pumpkins of the naughties.

The band, when making Swoon, really took things up a notch. Their hands-on approach with orchestras in the studio reveals their passion and dedication.

Is “Panic Switch” about the music business? The answer, my friends, “is blowing in the wind.” It really is.

Boy vs. girl singing is less prevalent in this album, with “It’s Nice To Know You Work Alone” being the only notable exception. The opening song, “There’s No Secrets This Year” is one of those effortless yet tough tracks that grabbed my attention.

What exactly makes this band great, you ask? Personally, I believe it is Monninger’s easy, yet valuable bass lines teamed with Aubert’s distorted guitars. Where could you find such a fascinating amalgamation? “Growing Old Is Getting Old” is the perfect example of their schizophrenic noise. It is a cool song with a strong build up.

I believe that the majority of songs on this album are masterpieces. The kids from Silverlake are in the midst of the unsurpassed. Just don’t make a dancefloor anthem.

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About Sarah Marshman

  • First, AMEN to pointing out the ill-informed and wrongful comparisons between SSPU and (my all-time favorite band) Smashing Pumpkins.

    I actually got to meet these guys, get their autographs (placed on my copy of their debut Pikul EP and a poster) and talk to them after an acoustic in-store performance at Newbury Comics in Boston, a few years ago. Great people.

    More than that, Brian Aubert told me himself he hadn’t listened to the Pumpkins or been made aware of any comparisons until after “Lazy Eye” came out. He actually chuckled and said to me he’s glad people didn’t notice his main influence: My Bloody Valentine.

    I sort of explained this in my own review of this album last year.