To name an album “Swoon” is to announce a not unimpressive ambition. A psychosomatic one, of sorts — a desire to arrange beats and tones in such patterns as to cause physical symptoms in the listener: to make the blood rush to places where it shouldn’t rush, to force the body into retreat. To make ’em weak at the knees and light in the head.
To fulfill this ambition, a taste for the theatrical would seem to be in order: unexpected lyrical twists, aural ruses, dramatic derring-do. But Silversun Pickups’ second release exhibits none of those qualities. Rather than inspiring great feeling, it proves generally anesthetic.
This is surprising, as the Pickups’ first album showed a precocious ability to take the familiar for a while — and then jolt away from the mimicry in precisely the right way, at just the right time. Out of the broad strokes of ’90s guitar rock, they made songs that were not, in fact, ’90s guitar rock. Most happily so.
“Swoon” evidences none of this craft. We quickly learn that what initially registers as intensity is just sheer volume — volume in both the spatial and sonic senses. The band has simply assembled great quantities of sonic stuff (raspy vocals; loose, jangling guitar; percussion heavy on the high hat) and mixed it all together without any sense of scale or proportion. Only Brian Aubert’s silly couplets distinguish one track from another.
Occasionally, you can pick out a satisfying lick or some well-turned line, but otherwise, this music alters neither mind nor body.