Silversun Pickups - Better Nature (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Silversun Pickups

Better Nature (2015)

New Machine Recordings

I'm pretty sure at the end of this record, you'll be going 'what the fuck happened to their sound?' as opposed to 'they're still a thing?' And yes, Silversun Pickups still is a thing -- one that's no longer indie-rock but more electro/synth-pop. I shit you not. It's one of the biggest swerves if you're a fan of Pikul and Carnavas like me. But most notable is that there's still a lure, a charm and an infectious energy in what Better Nature strives to be. And eventually accomplishes. 

Neck of the Woods felt experimental and frankly, it was very underwhelming. However, it signaled their intent to deviate from their norm. And I could live with that. Often, I'd describe their older music as cerebral, visceral and with trailblazing lyrics. Here, I find it's more at the surface as opposed to the depth I clung to when he sang years ago but I've come to realize that Brian Aubert prides himself on differentiating their sound with each record. And he definitely toys with lyrics and how deep they go. I'm still cynical but I can't blame him after relative commercial/mainstream success. His androgynous voice, as expected, is the centrifugal force of the record but bassist, Nikki Monninger, really stakes a claim to be used more. She's just as big a base and honestly, after a few listens, she captures you in her cameos. Songs like "Cradle (Better Nature)" and "Connection" allow Aubert time to show the direction of the record but there's no personality or big impression left. These songs are just catchy and lack the emotive pull tethered to songs like "Lazy Eye" and "Little Lover's So Polite". Cut to the rugged riffs of "Pins and Needles" and here you feel SSPU speaking to you again. It's much more free with a jangly rhythm section that nods to their old catalog. It's paves the way for Aubert to redeem himself, as he does on "Friendly Fires" which feels like a solo outing and illustrates how minimal the album aims to be.

Now, as minimal as it is, Better Nature tows the fine line between artistic and product and walks the right side quite well. It reminds me of what No Devotion did in their cheesy-as-fuck but wowing elements earlier this month. Again, at this interval it's apparent that indie-rock is dead on the record which is rammed home by "Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)" where Monninger undoubtedly steals the show. She should have been highlighted more as she goes at it in an homage to '80s stars like Cher or Debbie Harry. Her vocal tone here is so mesmerizing amid the instrumental textures that feel made for Refn's Drive. There's so much conviction and character from her and a lot of what they both combine to offer recalls bands like Sweden's Makthervaskan (as "Latchkey Kids" denotes ) and oddly enough, Slingshot Dakota. As "Ragamuffin" and "The Wild Kind" close off things, you'll probably drift off to Daft Punk's Tron soundtrack and even that Turbo Kid movie. There's a Depeche Mode catharsis at certain points, some New Order here and there, and overall, a lot of contemporary twists which complements their sound quite well. Better Nature is hardly rock and it's a big wildcard but SSPU seems hellbent on straying off on dirt tracks in the sunset. After hearing this, all my criticisms are silenced. They know what they're fucking doing. I doubted them after Swoon but now, I stand corrected.