Monday, May 04, 2009

Music: Swoon

Ever hear a song on the radio that immediately jumped out at you? "Panic Switch" did that for me:

I had been familiar with the Silversun Pickups' first single, "Lazy Eye," but I didn't think enough of it to listen to more of the band. Their second full-length album, "Swoon," is both more aggressive and more focused. "Panic Switch" is typical of the album's fairly rock-oriented sound, although there are breaks in between the thumping:

As a whole, it's bound to evoke memories of '90s guitar-based alternative, and comparisons with The Smashing Pumpkins are almost inevitable at this point (right down to the female bassist, the animated drummer, and the high-pitched frontman). Unlike the Pumpkins, which was essentially all Billy Corgan, the Pickups feel more like a cohesive unit (all four of them were friends before they made it big). This quality is hard to describe musically, but it is noticeable when you listen to the album.

And an album it is, with the lead track "There's No Secrets This Year" segueing into one of the most bombastic songs the Pickups have ever put out, "The Royal We." It's here where the driving, layered musical writing starts to stand out from similar acts, even if the overall direction is "safe." Lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert stretches his vocal range on "Swoon" more than he did in their debut album "Carnavas." Bassist Nikki Monninger, drummer Chris Guanlao, and keyboardist Joe Lester all have fairly substantial roles, too.

It's not all gravy: there are some clunkier tracks, and the lyrics are still a notch or two below the Pickups' precursors (say what you want about Corgan, he knew how to come up with memorable lines). The success of "Swoon" is deserved, though, and I'd much rather listen to this than "Bad Girlfriend" over and over and over again on FM radio.


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