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Silversun Pickups have had a history of writing breakout songs, but not breakout albums. Lazy Eye for instance, has one of the most iconic indie rock guitar riffs of the last decade, while Panic Switch is one of the most explosive songs ever cut to tape. Even the futuristic finish of Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) worked its way into my head for a few weeks.
But the amount of people that can name me a Silversun Pickups album name in comparison to those that can tell me a Silversun Pickups song name, well, kind of says it all really.
The reason for this is that throughout their career there’s been a distinct lack of consistency in regards to the quality of their song writing across each record. While the stand out tracks act as skyscrapers, the album fillers sit like bungalows in their shadows.
It’s this factor that has essentially seen them fail to transition from being a good band with great songs, to purely being regarded as a great band. And sadly on this latest effort in Better Nature, the general lacking of elevation in song writing again leaves the listener with a lot to be desired.
Even the album’s big takes Nightlight and Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance) fail to punch you in the brain stem quite like you know a Silversun Pickups song has so much potential to do. They’re definitely great compositions, but when you know an artist is capable of anthems, everything in the aftermath pales in comparison.
The production is also fairly off putting as a whole. Way too clean and precise – even for an L.A. band who clearly prefer that kind of big studio sound – the record feels too computerised and overtly industrial. The drum beats are soulless and mechanical, the vocal cuts too in-pitch and harmonised, and the general aura cold. It resonates as being cut and pasted together to fit perfectly – rather than capturing a live essence or energy that feels perfect.
That being said there is a slight beating heart below the metal shell. The aforementioned Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance) is a Metric-esque slow burner, made all the more seductive by the fact that Nikki Monninger takes the lead vocal spot from Brian Aubert. Aubert’s vox will always be tied to the band’s signature sound, but Monninger’s gentler approach and charming lack of range provides a sense of delicacy, innocence and nuance that often lacks from the high-range, powerhouse approach of Aubert.
But it’s just one highlight in an album that really fails to connect. I’ll keep sporting high hopes for Silversun Pickups potential, but I’ll definitely be listening to Lazy Eye a lot more times in the future than anything I have discovered on Better Nature.
Watch: Silversun Pickups – Nightlight