Neck of the Woods by Silversun Pickups (Dangerbird, 2012. 59 minutes)
Silversun Pickups is an alternative rock band based out of Los Angeles. Formed in 2002, the band is comprised of Brian Aubert, Nikki Monniger, Christopher Guianloa, and Joe Lester. Neck of the Woods marks their third studio album.
I’ve always loved when albums are albums, not single tracks put into a last-ditch mélange of sound. With Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups makes a whole album, in the classical sense, by playing on the listener’s sense of fear. When listening to the album, images of horror movie scenes overwhelm and attack, causing the listener to reminisce the adrenaline-pumping scenes of past.
After a listen, it’s understandable why Brian Aubert, the frontman for Silversun Pickups, likened the newest album to a horror movie. Songs such as the six-minute track, “Skin Graph”, offer a definite horror quality. The lyrics are deceptively sweet and introspective, but the pulsating, angrily strummed and percussed instruments convey creepiness.
“All I think about is why / the skin I’m in feels ordinary”
While “Skin Graph” could have been a sweet song by lyrics alone, the introspective nature and the mention of skin, inferring scalping, mass murder, and the like, makes the song one of the most unsettling tunes on the album.
To continue the Friday the 13th, Slasher-film vibe, “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” utilizes the often-used urban legend of Bloody Mary. Do you remember? If you say “bloody Mary” three times in a mirror, what happens?
“You can stay here long enough / We can play with Bloody Mary / Say her name into the dark / Activate our nerve endings”
Seemingly evoking the horror thrill, Brian Aubert seems to be explaining why so many enjoy the horror genre. When the adrenaline starts to pump, when one is scared, nerve endings activate and suddenly you feel the rush of horror.
While perpetuating the horror genre with some fairly angry instrumentation, Silversun Pickups still manage to emulate eighties-sounding bands. In a listen to “Here We Are (Chancer)” you hear a drum machine, electronically murmuring straight from another decade. But, the gloomy, dark, and sinister themes in the songs keep the album together, not to mention a catchy melody.
The last track of note is “Simmer”. A delay-enhanced arpeggiated guitar intersperses with fuzzy bass to open the song. The instrumentation gives the feeling of unwanted anticipation, as it’s scarcity leaves you expecting something more, but it’s not coming yet. It conjures the classic horror scene of someone behind the door, the audience knowing, and the obliviousness of the main character. Ghostly “ooh’s” permeate the background, infecting the atmosphere with horror.
While the band has seemingly stayed in their rock-out-in-the-nineties formula, I applaud them for using horror as a theme. It’s refreshing. It takes courage for a band to negotiate the waters of commitment and concept. All in all, the album doesn’t mark a huge debarkation away from the norm for the Pickups, but Neck of the Woods is a wonderfully executed concept.