Silversun Pickups are a band with a reputation for their buzzing, anxious rock. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, take a listen to “Panic Switch” off their 2009 album Swoon. It’s been 10 years since that album dropped which has given the band some time to produce the softer, slower, and some might say “boring” music we meet on the latest record Widows Weeds. With Silversun Pickups turning 20 next year, of course their style and taste are bound to change, but have they lost their flare for chaos that once made them so great?
The first track we get to hear is “Neon Wound.” It’s a song that’s got muted electronic notes, a heavy bassline, and dark lyrics. Much of the track is build up and anticipation for a peak which never gets resolved. There isn’t much variation between this piece and that of which you’d find on their 2012 album Neck of the Woods. If there’s one thing the band has learned in their 20 years together, it’s how to play it safe.
Despite this, the third song on the album “Freakazoid” gives us a taste of something new. Lead singer Brian Aubert trades in the usual monotone, growling vocals for something with dimension and range. The rest of the music is stripped down so that Aubert can carry the raw and thoughtful energy behind the anthem.
This is about the only glimpse we get into how the band has changed over time. The rest of the album is a safe bet and what could belong on an album released 10 years prior. The reason why Silversun Pickups are remembered for earlier tracks such as “Lazy Eye” and “Panic Switch” is because no one had put voice to mayhem like them before. While there is still mayhem to their music, it’s something we have grown comfortable with over the years.
The thing about the “mayhem” we hear on tracks such as “Bag of Bones” and “Songbirds” is that it’s boring. Silversun Pickups have developed a pattern for quick bassline, pressing drums, and growling guitar. Much of the songs on Widow’s Weeds are an attempt to mimic the noise which once brought the band to the top of the indie alternative charts. What they forget is that today is a different time, and they are different people. Perhaps this is why I get a sense that Silversun Pickups are putting on an act for their audience.
Widow’s Weeds is wild, frustrated, and a one trick pony. Even though the free-wheeling sound makes you think you’ve gotten yourself into something new, it is really just a dangerous attempt to play it safe. As Silversun Pickups turn 20, I’d say it’s time to dive deeper and get out of the shadow of earlier successes.