Let the ‘90s revival movement begin. Los Angeles based quartet, The Silversun Pickups first full-length effort, Carnavas, weaves a melodic wall of guitars and textured vocals that takes you on a trip back through an era defined by self-loathing and dirty guitar riffs. Instead of sounding like a rehashed version of Bush, the Pickups borrow from lesser known, but equally influential pioneers like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, and The Poster Children.


Avoiding traditional verse-chorus-verse techniques on most of the songs, the Pickups create catchy pop melodies that linger in your head long after you’ve turned your iPod off. Their first single, Lazy Eye, beautifully demonstrates this bold approach. Singer-guitarist, Brian Aubert, works his way up a vocal volcano that you anticipate will explode. You just don’t know when. Aubert’s belting of “sunshine” seems like the perfect payoff as he takes his quiet, grainy, melody into the anger-laden bridge that leaves you wanting more. Unlike most singers, Aubert doesn’t exploit this technique throughout Carnavas.

The songwriting highlight of Carnavas, Three Seed, moves like water flowing through a Zen fountain. Aubert’s guitar twinkles over the top of Nikki Monniger’s fluid bass line creating a vision of stars reflecting off a tranquil ocean. The progressive guitars are briefly interrupted by a perfectly placed offbeat bridge before it takes you back to that comfortable dream state.

Throughout Carnavas, the Pickups effectively counter perfectly fuzzed-out guitars, dirty bass lines, workman-like drumming with tranquil leads and vocals that blend naturally into each song. Future Foe Scenarios is a perfect example of how all of this comes together.

Carnavas will no doubt draw comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins. Aubert’s voice is hauntingly familiar to Billy Corgan. On the surface, The Silversun Pickups draw heavily from what made the Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream work, but underneath it all Carnavas is much more than a Pumpkins tribute. While the mainstream was fed grunge and grunge knock-offs during the ‘90s, the Pickups were clearly looking beyond MTV. As eras in music are constantly recycled, Carnavas provides a pleasant example of what can come an era dominated by grunge rock.

Like most of the songs on Carnavas, the record itself leaves you wanting more.

Carnavas sets the tone for what might be to come. During the ‘90s I couldn’t help but wonder what might spawn from this movement. The era itself was groundbreaking, but like most groundbreaking eras in music, what they spawn is equally intriguing. It’s safe to say that the common thought was how would someone take what bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were doing and recycle it into something fresh. The key word is fresh. Groups like Silverfish did this, but they were too close to the movement and too young and naïve as songwriters to find a way to turn this into their own sound.

The Silversun Pickups provide an example of what might be to come as this era gets recycled. They blend what might have gone largely unnoticed during the ‘90s.

Shaun Moore also blogs @ The Rail.

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