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Album review: Silversun Pickups' revivalist 'Neck of the Woods'

May 8, 2012 |  2:03 pm

Silversun Pickups
When critics call Silversun Pickups “ ’90s revivalists,” they usually mean the band sounds like Smashing Pumpkins, and they don’t usually mean it as a compliment. The L.A. quartet owns up to its Clinton-era influences on “Neck of the Woods,” but not in any of the ways you’d expect. The band’s third full-length hearkens back to the last decade when bands still played guitar riffs to stadiums -- but it also evokes the excitement of rock acts discovering how electronics and noise can upend expectations.

The band called in producer Jacknife Lee (known for his work with U2, R.E.M. and Bloc Party) to enliven its palette. The shake-up is immediate from the bomb-drill sirens and drum-’n’-bass percussion on “Skin Graph,” which sounds more like vintage Chemical Brothers than any rock ’n’ roll peer. “Busy Bees” puts a high-budget sheen on Fugazi’s spare, dancey post-punk; the drop-tuned guitar strut of “Mean Spirits” could make Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil pull off the road.

Sometimes its nicks are obvious -- “The Pit” is orthodox New Order down to the chorus-sodden guitars; “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” continues the band’s My Bloody Valentine fixation. But its allusions all nod to the best stuff from a time when rock acts could be experimental, heavy and platinum-selling at once. If only more bands were so revivalist.

“Neck of the Woods”
Silversun Pickups
Dangerbird Records

Three stars (Out of four)

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-- August Brown

Photo: Silversun Pickups. Credit: From the band's official site.

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