The instant track 1 begins (or at least 4 chords in), Silversun Pickups are in trouble. They’re walking on this beam high up in the air, right? All four of them. On one side of the line – let’s call it the left side – is mediocrity. A huge-ass pasture of it. Upon landing in this pasture, bands are forced to sit in the coarse dry grass, poked by prickers, as huge projection screens show sweetly edited films of their particular names and album titles dissolving completely into the rotated letters running downwards on cd racks in the homes of their target demographic. On the other side of this beam, though, on the right side, is the elevated side: let’s call it the field of coolness. You don’t fall as far as you do on the pasture side. Over in the field you get to chill out on the freshly imported sod and watch proudly as your album rises to the top rows of CD racks all over (in the same bedrooms of your intended audience).
Silversun wastes no time trying to justify their existence on the right. Sloppy fuzzed-out electric guitar bursts out the gate of track 1 with dumb animal predictability. The major 7 chord progression is a familiar one – Everclear did their best to erase its potency forever (look out, because an Anthology, if released, just might do it). The exploited chords, however, are countered wisely with a big buzzing yellowjacket of a guitar, and Brian Aubert’s voice, which carries with it a driving energy that pushes you till the end.
But that’s exactly when Track 2 begins with a blues-rock riff; when the vox kick in you get something like the Get-up Kids doing Black Keys. The band starts to fall left. I mean, it’s a realistic question to ask what business an emo band has playing a riff like this. The bridge takes longer to cross than usual, and you’re worried. Since it’s only 9 minutes into the album at this point, you reserve judgment and let the song play out.
One questionable intro and a minute thirty of boring verse/prechorus later and you have it: a Zack Morris Time-Out Moment. You ask yourself (and the audience): “is it worth it?” You have the good memories of track one and the bad memories of track 2, and this last 2 minutes of buildup is going to decide which way the band falls off that beam. It turns out the chorus sounds a lot like the kind of Silverchair that kept Silverchair in Australia and it is then that you know just how interchangeable this listening experience will be.
There are only a few good times left, like when the angry bee guitar comes back in Track 4. It’s the kind of bee that’s so puffy and fuzzy and colorful that you’ll forget that you’re scared of bee stings (rightfully so: you’re allergic) to watch it zip whimsically around your abdomen. And Track 7 nearly recaptures your post-track-1 attention, with a verse-as-prechorus that dips down briefly before zipping into a chorus that, contextually speaking, is powerful. It’s Aubert’s voice here that does the majority of the work: his scream is more emote-full than a busload of skinny lead-singers wearing tiny shirts with ironically-intended messages.
The mystery is long over, and you know what kind of grass (dry sparse or fresh sod) the concave-cheeked rockers are on. But you listen intently to the vocals, hoping from your heart that this Aubert guy is the key to “getting it”. The closer you listen, the more disheartened you become. If he’s saying anything poetic, you couldn’t say. Track 5 is the first clean stab at his lyrics…..you decipher (loosely): “The things we lead do not amount to much/Made up of bins and wood and stones and stuff/It’s revolution maybe/Proves who you work for lately.” Reoccurring themes of bitterness directed towards, um, authority and stuff. Ambiguous phrases that lead you to suspect that the band maybe roomed with the Get-up Kids in college and that their refrigerator contained a shitload of magnet poetry. If you’re going to wash over lyrical meaning with affected guitars, then do it. Or if you’re going to emote so f’ing crazily that specific wording is trivial, then do that. Those are ways to fall on the right side.
As the last half of the album chugs along you dip in and out of consciousness….a syncopated rhythm snaps your head up….you hear someone yelling as if in acute emotional pain. A big fatty blimp rolls along overheard, the word “hype” in neon blinking letters, and you laugh and try to touch it, cause it feels so close. You can’t touch it though…it can’t fit in your hand at all. You feel like crying.
You wake up in time to let the final track make you believe distantly in the what-could-be-balance of track one. Metallic lapping waves at once pacify you with something like nostalgia. This isn’t so bad, you mention to no one in particular. And then the chorus – hey, a catchy chorus with a just introduced concept: different phrasing. Cool beans! The 11th or so bridge of the album seems different this time…..your attention is indeed bridged! It’s working! And if that catchy chorus could just come back, then why – hey, it came back! Now you want that voice to start screaming, and you want it now, and – there it is! But wait, only four words: “Now it’s too late”. And then there’s some indulgent industrial/plane crash extro shit and that’s the end of that.