Silversun Pickups - Neck Of The Woods 12"
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On my local alt-rock station, Silversun Pickups' 2006 single "Lazy Eye" has rightfully become a playlist staple, and not just because the song fits comfortably alongside the repertoire of certain first-generation Lollapalooza veterans known for inflicting violence on large orange fruit. Though it lacks an actual chorus, "Lazy Eye" still packs a considerable emotional charge, thanks to the creeping tension between the song's cool precision and frontman Brian Aubert's efforts to destabilize it, through arrhythmic guitar scraping and an increasingly agitated vocal. Though the song's tone is subdued and serious, I always smirk during Aubert's climactic shriek of the line "everyone's so focused clearly on... such shine," as if he were single-handedly trying to destroy the fun-in-the-sun spirit that defines so much Californian pop music. Which is to say: "Lazy Eye" remains Silversun Pickups' biggest and best song because it's their most human, imperfect, irrational one.
But those endearing qualities have become increasingly difficult to glean from Silversun Pickups these days. The band's third album, Neck of the Woods, picks up where 2009's sophomore release, Swoon, left off, inheriting the task of blowing up Silversun Pickups' hazy-headed pop to more muscular, arena-ready proportions. Which is to be expected: This is, after all, a band whose two albums have sold over half a million copies to date combined, so there's a natural inclination to want to keep hitting the back rows even as they move ever further away. But there's an increasing disconnect between ambition and execution: While Neck of the Woods boasts all the hallmarks of a big-budget, radio-ready modern-rock record-- including a production credit for Jacknife Lee, a guy who knows a thing or two about polishing up once-scrappy indie-rock bands for KROQ contention-- Silversun Pickups have a way of making their most grandiose gestures sound passive and timid. The album's over-the-top but underwhelming nature is best summed up by a line from the aforementioned breakthrough single: "I've been waiting for this moment all my life/ But it's not quite right."