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Album review: Silversun Pickups' 'Swoon'

April 14, 2009 |  5:01 pm

Silversun Growth is a necessity in every corner of rock 'n' roll, even for local heroes not far removed from the fab dives of Silver Lake  and Echo Park.

But by the time the Silversun Pickups released their  2006 full-length debut, "Carnavas," they already had perfected their  fuzzy sing-alongs for shoe-gazers, making pure indie rock as forceful as it was accessible. They were eager to please and exceptionally good at it.

For the band's ambitious second album, "Swoon," out just ahead of its second turn on the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival main stage this weekend, it chose not to go bigger but deeper.

Singer-guitarist Brian Aubert begins with "There's No Secrets This Year," a song less immediate than anything on "Carnavas," if not exactly difficult. It stretches out across nearly six minutes of shiny guitar and a death-disco beat from Christopher Guanlao.

"Sort Of" starts like a brooding Bjork track before sliding into a driving, droning riff pattern that suggests the influence of My Bloody Valentine, though the band keeps careful control over its humming, hissing distortion effects. There is a spacey jangle to the guitar on "Growing Old Is Getting Old" and anxious strings and breathless vocals on "It's Nice to Know You Work Alone," which rides Nikki Monninger's bouncy bass-rhythms.

The recurring Smashing Pumpkins comparisons still apply, beginning with Aubert's velvety, mannered purr and wail, but only as a rough guide. The Silversun Pickups aren't quite so rigid in sound and attitude, offering more warmth than rage on "The Royal We."

That suggests a more apropos reference (minus the post-punk feedback) in late-'70s Lindsey Buckingham, another gifted guitarist and songwriter challenging fans with subversive new rhythms and ideas within the otherwise comfortable pop package of Fleetwood Mac. The Silversun Pickups just do it louder.

If "Swoon" isn't quite this year's "Tusk," the Silversun Pickups are exploring fresh territory of their  own and keeping it easy to follow. The new album closes with "Surround (or Spiraling)," as the band accelerates ever further, veering toward noise and never losing the hook or a sense of evolution.

--Steve Appleford

Silversun Pickups
Dangerbird Records
Three and a half stars