The world needs more bands like the Silversun Pickups, or rather, it needs more bands like the Silversun Pickups of Carnavas. On that first full-length, the LA foursome unapologetically aimed for arenas, as if intent on reminding every Nickelback and My Chemical Romance despiser that radio-ready rock needn’t suck. And it worked—two top-10 singles and several inviting album cuts positioned the Pickups perfectly for mainstream success heading into LP No. 2.
Ah, but that’s where the story, and the songwriting, gets … interesting. Apparently no longer content front-loading his tunes with chunky hooks, leader Brian Aubert has opted for more meandering arrangements on Swoon; ear-catching goodies still abound, but they’re often buried, truncated or both, which is a damn shame. Subtlety can be an admirable musical trait, but rock ’n’ roll is hardly lacking for it at the moment. Right now, we need some big, brash, guitar-guided immediacy.
So, where once we had the directness of “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” “Future Foe Scenarios” and “Lazy Eye,” we now get a grabby final 2:40 of the six-minute “Growing Old Is Getting Old,” two nifty little stretches embedded in “The Royal We” (the part that starts “You used to do a little but a little won’t fly”) and “Panic Switch,” a first single that takes way too long setting up its pleasant chorus. Aubert also might have not have featured his best bits quite so prominently because, in several cases, they’re just not that strong. “Catch and Release,” for example, is set atop a flaccid, Nirvana-knockoff riff (hey, aren’t these guys supposed to worship the Smashing Pumpkins?), while “Sort Of” pairs lackluster lyrics (“When there’s fire on the ground/Should it turn my whole world around?/When the wheel’s in the lake/Should I think it’s a big mistake?”) with a mostly forgettable melody.
Still, there’s a fair bit to like about Swoon, like “Substitution,” which succeeds at being hummable by keeping its structure simple and fun, and “There’s No Secrets This Year,” a powerhouse opener that, for five minutes at least, offers hope the Silversun Pickups will someday indeed save the Earth, once and for all, from Papa Roach.