Audible Ear: Silversun Pickups

Just like I warned you, here it comes.  A flood of praise for the Silversun Pickups along with a number of videos showing their finest moments, their finest hours, their finest finest!

I don’t really know how to talk about music.  I wrote one review of Vanessa Peters a long, long time ago, and I admit I don’t know what I was doing then, and have even less idea of what I did then now.  So let’s just get this party started, right?

The video for “Lazy Eye” captures my feelings about the Silversun Pickups perhaps most perfectly.  The focus on the young crowd – all clearly too young to be in a bar, I mean, seriously, that bartender’s asking for trouble – and the clearly-staged-but-meant-to-seem-live scene in the bar where everyone’s just rocking out to the music all point towards nostalgia for youth, especially with the band being so much older than the crowd.

The Silversun Pickups sound like a band I should’ve been listening to in the nineties, that I should have grown up with.  There sound (already I’m running out of words) is old-school, with a hint of Smashing Pumpkins.  Or, again, maybe I’m just feeling the same vibe that the Pumpkins used to give me (and still do when they catch me by surprise on the radio).

What I like about this video is the simpleness of the story.  Playing out over the song and the performance is the give and take of a flirtation.  The stakes are low in the grand scheme of things, but – as echoed by the point where the Brian Aubert yells – the emotions at stake for our two principals are everything to them.

This song (“Little Lover’s So Polite”) and “Lazy Eye” are the ones that hooked my ears first.  They have great openings and a sense of urgency in Aubert’s voice that dragged me through each song again and again.

So much for the light show


I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life

I love the use of Nikki Monninger’s voice in this song.  She’s given her own moment to take over the song, and it provides the deeper emotional thread over Aubert’s main lyrics.  I was going to type “main plot” but, as with many of my favorite bands, the lyrics are imagistic rather than literal.

Folding up the skyline

Which doesn’t mean that the songs don’t tell a story, just that the story they tell is centered around emotion rather than plot.  Here, even with the overall brightness of the music, the song tells of life’s downward slide, and an acceptance of that slide.  It’s that acceptance that adds truthfulness to the song’s seemingly paradoxical cheeriness.

With this song we move into their second album.  The songs become a little quicker, more frenetic, and darker.  The videos echo this transformation, though that might also be a result of the videos growing more polished as well, more produced.

This video enacts what I was trying to say about the Silversun Pickups’ imagistic lyrics.  Here, although the running gives a sense of panic, of course, the constant play of colors and the frantic shift of lights slips the feelings of both panic and dislocation into the viewer without a corollary story to make “sense” of it all.

Again, the haunting sound of Monninger’s voice as the song winds up into a storm of sound.  What amazes me about this band is how they drag out my emotions into the open with a minimum of lyrical framework.  For the first dozen times I heard these songs, I can’t say I really had any idea what Aubert was saying.  His voice was just another instrument corralling my ears.

This video is getting a lot of hate on YouTube, claiming that it’s inept and a product of someone who just learned photoshop and went wild.  I think the people making these claims are idiots.

What struck me most about the video is the surrealism at its heart, and how this visual tactic – like the colors in “Panic Switch” – is another attempt to visually portray the context of the Silversun Pickups’ lyrics without crafting a literal story.

The driving force of “The Royal We” is endemic of my attachment to all of the Silversun Pickups’ songs.  The songs open with an emotional riff both musically and lyrically and they never let up until the final notes fade away (or, in this case, abruptly cut off).  What I’ve found I need in music is a sound that often feels as if it has too much going on, too many things to focus on at once.  With a Silversun Pickups’ song, I can pick up the thread of Aubert’s voice, or Monninger’s bassline, or Guanlao’s drums, or Lester’s keyboard and follow it while the rest of the song’s body is beating on my eardrums, waiting to be let in.  It’s that pressure that keeps me coming back to them.

Follow me down the strings of sweat on your body
Can’t believe the lure was enough
Do you see how the wind in your hair now feels differently
Catch and release the lure above

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