The hardest thing for any band to shake off is the accusation that they sound rather a lot like another, more popular band. And so the battle continues for Silversun Pickups to escape the shadow of that other group with the same initials. So it’s a good job their third album Neck Of The Woods doesn’t sound much like Smashing Pumpkins at all.
That enduring comparison is the price they have paid for releasing, in 2006’s Carnavas, a better Pumpkins album than the real band were able to manage themselves at the time. Of course, there were other influences, but being tagged as ‘My Bloody Valentine rip-offs’ isn’t much more helpful than the alternative option, and while second album Swoon got lots of positive reviews, it got a lot of backhanded compliments too.
The main bone of contention seemed to be that Silversun Pickups were nothing more than a load of shallow Californians apeing the sound of the Pumpkins without having any of the depth of Gish or Siamese Dream. They sounded pretty but that was about it. While it’s hard to say that Neck Of The Woods will change that perception, no-one can deny that they’ve expanded their musical palette.
Not much on this new album strays too far from the dreamy shoegazing sound they have established for themselves, but the likes of Mean Spirits and The Pit certainly don’t sound like either of those two bands who’ve hung around their necks like a mill-stone. Although The Pit has pretty much copied and pasted a New Order bassline, but gets away with it because there’s a lot more going on than that.
Getting the ever-popular Jacknife Lee on-board as producer has certainly helped shifted the Pickups in a new direction, while never losing the shimmering sheen on top of the guitar riffs. If anything, this album gives frontman Brian Aubert‘s vocals a much more natural backing than either of their first two records, as first single Bloody Mary showcased perfectly.
Neck Of The Woods maybe won’t change the way their critics see Silversun Pickups, but songs like Dots And Dashes (Enough Already) show that there is so much more to them than copyists. Carnavas and Swoon demonstrated that they had the potential to sound like a great band, but this third album shows they have the potential to BE a great band. They’re not quite there yet, but it’s a big step in the right direction.