“I’ve been waiting / I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life”.
Silversun Pickups fans will be more than familiar with this line; Brian Aubert’s opening lyrics in ‘Lazy Eye’ – to this day the quintessential and defining Pickups song. This would certainly be a truthful statement in 2006, however, in the six years since the release of Carnavas the LA four-piece haven’t released anything with the progressive and emotive dynamicity that Aubert once displayed; opening with that unforgettable aforementioned lyric.
Aubert has compared Neck Of The Woods to a horror movie. And yes, in comparison to Swoon and indeed Carnavas this is a gloomy affair – but are horrors really anybody’s first choice of casual entertainment? ‘Skin Graph’ opens up in typical fashion. Fuzzy chimes and steady drumming progressively rises to the surface before Aubert builds up to a chorus that can only be explained as, almost momentous – before submerging into a frustrating ambience. The irony of this record is that Aubert actually sums it up best himself, “because all I think about is why / the skin I’m in feels ordinary.” Put simply, the wow factor is absent. That poignant moment is set up on so many occasions, but agonisingly, it never quite arrives.
Thankfully, the underwhelming nature of ‘Skin Graph’ doesn’t characterise the full record. Lead single ‘Bloody Mary (Never Endings)’ flaunts a new Silversun Pickups style, the unmistakable ‘90s sound is still present, (we won’t go in to the Smashing Pumpkins comparisons) but we’re presented with a mish-mash of dream-pop guitars within an ambient, synth soundscape – thanks to a little assistance from former U2 and R.E.M. producer Jacknife Lee. At times Neck Of The Woods places the synth-heavy sound on the front foot, most noticeably with ‘The Pit’, baring similarities to the synthed-up traits of Depeche Mode and New Order.
As a stand-alone album, this has its moments, but when you’ve experienced their past aptitude it leaves a slight feeling of emptiness. It’s a mellow record which explores some promising new directions, but nothing with enough magnitude to outdo their previous efforts. That’s not to say it’s not for everyone, though – for fans of mediocre horror flicks, this ticks every box.