SwoonIn “There’s No Secrets this Year,” the first song on Swoon, the Silversun Pickups come out swinging for the fences.  If the band has been bothered by frequent comparisons to the Smashing Pumpkins, they don’t show any signs of it here.  It’s an auspicious track that makes the same kind of promises that “Cherub Rock” made as the opening track of Siamese Dream fifteen years ago.

The comparisons are apt.  The band enthusiastically acknowledges the Pumpkins as one of their primary influences, and even the appearance, gender, and ethnicity (a lanky vocalist, a female bassist, an Asian-American male) of their lineup is similar.  “There’s No Secrets this Year” showcases a number of the postive ways the Pumpkins have influenced the Pickups, as mulitple guitar overdubs and rattling drum rolls are assembled together into an ambitious, portentous opener.

Swoon is a different album from the Silversun Pickups’ first effort, Carnavas (2006) in that it doesn’t contain any songs with the same kind of broad commercial muscle as “Lazy Eye.”  “Lazy Eye” was apparent as a hit from the moment the band posted it to their myspace page, and easily lived up to its expectations, climbing to #5 on the Billboard chart, appearing in both television shows and advertisements, and even finding its way onto the video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band.   “Panic Switch” is the first single to be released from Swoon, and while it’s definitely a good song, ably capturing the nervous energy of its title, it doesn’t induce the same kind of quivers its predecessor did two years ago.

The absence of a dominant single opens the door for the album to function as more of a conceptual tale, building around the theme of a nervous breakdown as stated in the album’s title and echoed in “Panic Switch.”  Unfortunately, this fails to occur.  None of the songs are disappointing by themselves (with the possible exception of “It’s Nice to Know You Work Alone,” which seems destined to find its way onto the soundtrack of the Max Payne sequel), but the lulls are too rare and the songs don’t bridge together with enough structure to bring the album together into a coherent vehicle.

This isn’t to say the album is without its high points. One of the band’s most enjoyable talents, which surfaced on Carnavas and is showcased even more effectively on Swoon is their ability to let a song drift.  Particularly on “Growing Old is Getting Old,” and “Draining,” the songs extend purposefully, as the band lets their instruments roam comfortably past the four and five-minute barriers that constrain too many other musicians and songs.  By the end of the album, however, this strength has become a weakness. Rather than building to a towering climax or fading away to black, the closing song “Surrounded” drifts to a meaningless conclusion and we’re left needing just a little bit more closure in order to be satisfied.

Silversun Pickups – “There’s No Secrets This Year”

Silversun Pickups – “Panic Switch”