Hey, remember a band called the Smashing Pumpkins? Yeah, me too. And, man, wasn’t Siamese Dream awesome, with its massive guitar sound? Yeah, that’s a great album. And wouldn’t it be great if a band today tried to follow the same formula for success, but without the magic that made the Smashing Pumpkins good? No? Oh. Well, if you’re still denying that the 90’s ever ended, then Swoon might just be for you. It’s the second full-length by LA outfit Silversun Pickups, who’ve nearly perfected their below-par noisy indie-rock sound.
The thing is, there’s not much here that’s actively bad. Most of the 10 songs on this album have a reasonable central riff, nice crunchy guitars, a reasonable structure. Even the lyrics aren’t horrendously bad, albeit a little wishy-washy and pretentious at times. But this album has a serious, serious problem with pacing. The shortest song is 4:39, the longest clocks in at 5:53. That’s ten big songs, and almost all of them could stand to lose a minute or two. And when most of your songs are ponderous, slow beasts, then you’ve got to be damn good, else the album ends up sounding like one long, boring mess that leaves no lasting impression. And, ultimately, that’s what Swoon is.
Of course, if you take time to go through and really listen carefully, you find that there are stronger and weaker moments. Opener ‘There’s No Secrets This Year’ is probably the best track on the album, which is possibly a result of it also being one of the faster-paced songs. The central riff is solid, the vocals keep momentum flowing through the song, even the chorus is reasonably catchy. Everything goes downhill from there, though, with ‘The Royal We’ demonstrating some of the worst lyrics on the album (‘Do you feel safe again? Look over your shoulder/Very carefully, look over your shoulder’), and a tune that can be most favourably described as bland. And from here onwards, the album sinks further into a mire of mediocrity. If you start any song from the album, and there’s a bass riff playing, you can be damn sure the exact same bass riff is going to be plodding monotonously away for the whole runtime of the song. First single ‘Panic Switch’ is one of the most painfully dull songs on the album, with the only real change in its 5:43 runtime being the occasional addition of extra guitar noise.
‘Substitution’, which comes in towards the end of the album, strips the guitar down to a scratchier sound, and forces the band to write an actual tune, making it one of the best songs on the album. Even so, it’s nothing stunning, but you’re definitely ready for the change of pace by the time you get to it. Once again, though, the lyrics are meaningless dross of the highest order. There’s nothing in this whole album that makes you go ‘Oh wow!’, nothing that stands out as a brilliant musical or lyrical moment. Silversun Pickups aren’t bad, they’re just so criminally mediocre that you almost wish they’d put out something genuinely dreadful so it’d be a bit more interesting. There’s nothing special here, and no real reason to ever listen to this album.