It’s hard to think of Silversun Pickups and not think of the banger that appeared on their debut album Carnavas. ‘Lazy Eye’ was a celebration of a scene, of 2006, of sweeping melodies, of dense guitars and of angsty lyrics. The video for the track was set in a grotty bar with the band playing to a handful of disinterested punters, including a boy and a girl stuck in sexual loggerheads while the lyrics wailed “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life” – it was perfect.
Nearly ten years on, and three albums later, Silversun Pickups are still trying to shake their one-track pony stereotype. New album Better Nature, their fourth, has been released through their own label New Machine Recordings and with the advent of this new label venture, the LA quartet also bring a more mature and poppy sound to proceedings.
The old urgency is still there however, especially on the lead single ‘Nightlife’, which flickers with effervescent harmonies and singalong hooks. So too is Brian Aubert’s parched voice, which meshes with bassist Nikki Monniger’s beautifully, especially on ‘Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)’, while the opener ‘Cradle’ rails from nowhere, breaking the anthemic gloom and shooting upwards in true Pickups style.
Though the Pickups have evolved, they are still staying true to the core components that made up their original sound way back when. The permutations of light-touch, Smashing Pumpkins-esque melodies bolstered with a backbone of heavy handed rock instrumentation is still there. Their sound has become more texturally layered as the years have gone by, but the dreamy quality of that sound appears to have been lost by degrees. Lyrically, Aubert’s amateur poetics are still working well, but they too have evolved, from twenty-something angst to the dignified sadness of a thirsty-something-year-old band who have bills to pay and children to feed.
Better Nature is more restrained than it’s predecessor, no doubt due to Jacknife Lee – the legendary producer of scraggly indie-rock bands’ involvement. The grit and grime of ‘Lazy Eye’ has long passed, they’ve moved on and grown into a more mature sound. There is nothing particularly groundbreaking on the 10-track album, but it’s heralding a new sound which is leading the band somewhere in the right direction.