Silversun Pickups: Swoon

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Silversun Pickups 

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

14th April 2009
At 14:25 GMT

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If you can envision the issue inherent in removing the "Spaceman, I always wanted you to go..." section from Babylon Zoo or the "lost and loaded..." section from Silversun Pickups' most recognised hit "Lazy Eye" you may see the problem with "Swoon" rather swiftly.

The fifty-one minutes you spend with the Californian dream-rock band's sophomore album are much like fifty-one minutes spent on the precipice of a volcano which never erupts. The ground is rumbling, the gas is being released but the lack of superheated lava melting your bones from under you is starting to elicit a mild depression. The ingredients are all present, the band have combined to craft the kind of sound which has the ability to make grown men break down in tears: the soothing yet urgent effeminate vocals of Brian Aubert, ethereal guitar tones, dream-like echoes reverberating throughout the cosmos and drum & bass work which grabs you by the arm and leads you skipping throughout the songs without a care in the world.

The ingredients never seem to truly capitalise on their own individual deliciousness though. The entirety of Swoon presents itself as little more than perfunctory performance. Songs rarely take the time or make the effort to build themselves into well-earned catharsis. Instead, it's often a case of repetition ad nauseum followed by a swift transition. With songs averaging between five and six minutes, one should be excused for being in expectation of something a slither more grandiose than verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Yet that is all we are usually greeted with. A greater issue challenging the listeners is the distinct lack of hooks within the album. While Aubert's voice is indeed mesmerising, more is requires than singing in a high register to concoct memorable pieces of music.

This lack of distinctive moments lends the band's second album to the following formula: E = 100 - A (where 'E' is enjoyment level and 'A' is percentage of attention level). If the album remains in hazy focus in your mind, the experience is exceptional, should you cast your mind's eye intently upon the record though, boredom soon sets in.

There are moments which almost erupt outside the constraints fortified by Swoon. Second track "The Royal We" features a captivating see-saw fill between passages in the verse with the mid-section of the song seeing a transition from colossal walls of guitar distortion to an almost-ambient quality coaxing out visages of free-flying views of spectacular canyon-esque scenery. Alas though, there is still nothing likely to remain within your mind upon its closure.

"Growing Old is Getting Old" will be the highlight for many, due mostly to its distinctive sonic character. Doubts do persist though that you may have spent three minutes with an introduction only to be rewarded with something which you have already witnessed on Mew's debut album (1997's A Triumph For Man).

It could be that the band are too enamoured with their own riffs, reluctant to let them go until it's already too late, it could just be that despite the boys being technically excellent with a unique sonic texture, (the Smashing Pumpkins comparisons are unlikely to stick for much longer) they just lack the mystery ingredient to bring it all together into a package which approaches the acclaim of 'specialness'.

Rating:  6 / 10

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