BOTTOM LINE Well-crafted alternative rock in a world overflowing with alternatives
These days, Silversun Pickups songs are like the aural equivalent of Facebook Memories — moments that are pleasant enough to think about when prompted, but not always potent enough to remember on their own.
That’s not really the L.A. alt-rockers’ fault. They do what they set out to do very well. But in an age where there isn’t much of a defined rock mainstream any more, the idea of producing music that rebels against it seems a bit outdated. Nevertheless, Silversun Pickups’ fifth album “Widow’s Weeds” (New Machine/Warner) is a well-built collection of alternative rock, defined by singer Brian Aubert’s distinctive voice and the muscular bass lines of Nikki Monninger.
The current single “It Doesn’t Matter Why” sets the stage for the album, its intense mix of driving guitars and soaring strings calling to mind the loud-soft-loud dynamics that made producer Butch Vig famous in alternative’s Nirvana-driven heyday. But all that Vig-heightened drama boils down to a chorus of “It doesn’t matter why we’re known, we’re just known,” that seems to miss the point. It should matter why you’re known, shouldn’t it?
That’s not to say Silversun Pickups don’t have moments when they pull it all together. The grunged-up closer “We Are Chameleons” offers a nice edge that is reminiscent of the band’s breakthrough hit “Lazy Eye,” a heady moment where they would win over the crowds who checked them out at showcases in New York shoe stores. And the opening “Neon Wound,” with its driving electro-pop intro and epic lyrics, shows the band still has plenty of ideas.
Most of those ideas, though, center on the idea of alternative, like the single “Freakazoid,” which has its roots in laid-back Incubus hooks augmented by intriguing, hushed Bee Gees-like harmonies. In a different era, fans would have freaked out over “Widow’s Weeds,” but today, when brashness and innovation grab fans most, it's a well-made anachronism.