Album Review: Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

Silversun Pickups are just one of those bands that don’t get enough credit. They’ve been dubbed a Smashing Pumpkins knockoff due to the similarities between the two (love of fuzzy guitar leads, unique vocals, initials, 3 guys 1 girl, anthem rocking tendencies, face melting bass lines, etc. – mostly things that NO other band has ever used, obviously) and written off because many people never dig deeper than their hook-heavy singles. But every time they pop an album out, Silversun Pickups gives the real listener ample reason to take in the album as a whole and enjoy the phenomenal journey between first and last track. As new album Neck of the Woods is the first SSPU record produced by Jacknife Lee (also produced Bloc Party, Snow Patrol, Weezer, The Hives, and U2), it’s the first that really feels like a pop record. But thanks to excellent songwriting and new lyrical territory, Neck of the Woods expands the Silversun Pickups sound without too much repetition.

Neck of the Woods is chalk-full of all Silversun Pickups’ trademark elements. The gunshot marching drum snares, heavy rhythm guitar-filled choruses, even the near-acoustic breakdowns with clever chord progressions – it’s all here. But the band doesn’t just retread old territory. Neck of the Woods begins and ends with familiarities, but the middle is where the magic happens. After the soaring album single “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” fades, in starts “Busy Bees”, opening with an electronic drum pad that wouldn’t have been out of place on Radiohead’s “Bloom”. But almost like a hint at what’s to come, the pad disappears halfway through and “Busy Bees” becomes this album’s builder track. Next track “Here We Are (Chancer)” takes the electronic noise to a new place and even brings in a bit of the shoegaze we saw introduced in “Bloody Mary”. Even in new territory, “Here We Are” reminisces to old tracks like “Mercery” and “Booksmart Devil” in feel. “Mean Spirits” introduces a fuzzed-out bass line that we see again on “Gun-Shy Sunshine”. “Simmer” and “The Pit” expand on the electronic drums more than any other tracks, but also bring with them heavier guitar lines and more driving hooks. The band doesn’t jump headlong into uncharted waters without throwing bait that they know will drag you down with them.

Neck of the Woods is a long album full of both new and familiar material. Silversun Pickups continue to grow past their famed tunes, and once again, they give us an album experience that you are often hard-pressed to find in the music business today. With a big-time producer, the band may have started to make a couple fans nervous. But Neck of the Woods is hard evidence that SSPU is bigger than their production, and in the long run, they rely on continuously excellent songwriting and a phenomenal energy that is hard to find elsewhere.

Silversun Pickups are now on tour and will be playing on the main stage at Sasquatch! this year! You can grab Neck Of The Woods at your local record store now on CD or on beautiful yellow double vinyl!

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