Those who were hoping for a major breakthrough moment in alt-rock band Silversun Pickups’ third studio release Neck of the Woods are likely to be disappointed. That’s not to say the record isn’t good; I think it’s not only a respectable offering, but a natural next step for the band. Mostly, the critics’ fodder is likely to be that the record isn’t different enough from their previous work to set it apart.
The band is probably quite tired of being compared with Smashing Pumpkins by now; it seems like every review and mention of Silversun Pickups contains that sort of comparison (including, it would appear, this one). But frankly, those comparisons are just too easy to draw, what with all the buzzy, noisy guitars, and even the same initials (S.P.). Since the atmospheric buzz is such a part of the band’s overall signature sound, that isn’t likely to change—and thus, neither are the comparisons.
That said, with Neck of the Woods there are a couple of shifts I see in the band’s sound that are worth mentioning. One is that there seems to be less reliance on the dominant recurring/strumming bass riff; the other is an inclusion of some more electronic elements, as evidenced in songs like “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” and “The Pit.” Both are welcome changes, in my view, because they expand the band’s range and prevent the run-together effect with their songs. Beyond that, Silversun Pickups has retained its noisy-rock sound with shoegaze elements and a tendency toward longer tracks (the shortest ones clock in at just under 5 minutes).
Obvious stand-out tracks are “The Pit” (mentioned earlier), and “Mean Spirits,” a rocky tune in which the band pulls out the stops, so to speak. One of the favorite “deep cuts” for me is “Busy Bees;” it’s got a sparse guitar riff over a rhythmic drum loop that is surprisingly captivating.
Overall, Neck of the Woods marks forward motion for Silversun Pickups, but nothing that could be considered a “breakthrough.” But perhaps those people looking for said breakthrough are looking for too much. At the end of the day, the best way to describe their sound is “atmospheric rock.” In effect, that’s exactly what this record is probably best suited for: setting an atmosphere.
ALBUM RATING: 3 Stars (out of five)