Full disclosure: I love Silversun Pickups. Further disclosure: I did not like Neck of the Woods. Their third long player, which released on Dangerbird March of 2012 was … well… scary. It always sounded like the soundtrack to a horror movie rather than a fully developed, turd-free SSPUs album I’ve come to expect. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have its moments. The first track “Skin Graph” and penultimate “Guy-Shy Sunshine” were the bright spots, but for some reason, they focused attention and radio play on “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” and “The Pit.” These were not the strongest tracks off of album that Rob Zombie should have produced.
The problem with this that I have a very “What have you done for me lately?” approach with my music. Hello, Mr. Clapton. I love Sunshine of my Love and Layla is amazing, but what have you been up to lately? About 14 blues albums? No thank you. Someone shouldn’t be that blue. Coming off of Swoon in 2009, Neck of the Woods could have been so much more. But, it just wasn’t. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
When I saw that SSPU was releasing something, I was pumped. When I found out that it was a vinyl reissue of their debut EP, Pikul, I was super-pumped. I loved Swoon so much that I worked backwards to 2006’s Carnavas before landing at 2005’s Pikul. Re-releasing it reminds me of everything I loved about the first albums while making me wonder why we don’t get more of what makes Pikul so great in later albums.
Pikul is full of surprises. Long for an EP, Pikul weighs in at 35:52 but that’s before the hidden track “Sci Fi Lullaby.” Hidden tracks? On a vinyl? What an age we live in! The vinyl release wont net you minutes of silence you get on the CD but there is only so much space on the 12 inch clear vinyl. That’s right – clear. I have seen other clear vinyl before but not to the transparency of Pikul. The deviation from standard black did not seem to diminish the sound quality on my modest turntable.
The album cover is as beautiful as it is captivating. It enticed me to look and keep looking as I create the story of the girl on the swing. Is she reaching out for something or pushing something away? It depends on the track.
Track one: “Kissing Families” serves to (re)introduce you to the band.
“Stop the season. Stop the sting.
A plastic mic. A broken string.
Infected wound from a rusty ring.
Soon you’ll be there too”
I’m so there. People will always draw comparisons between SSPU and Smashing Pumpkins but the similarities end with SP names and a female bass player. SSPU masters the fast/ slow, heavy/light, loud/soft quality displayed on tracks like “Kissing Families” and “The Fuzz.” This musical versatility reminds me of what made Led Zeppelin so special – the ability to make a six-minute song start at one place and end at the other end of the spectrum while making you wish it was another four minutes longer.
An aspect that was done so well on Pikul but absent from other SSPU release is the female vocal. They are front and center on “Creation Lake” a painfully beautiful tune and on “Kissing Families.” Brian’s hushed, whispered vocals pair really well with Nikki’s understated style. Joe and Chris on keyboards and drums, respectively round out the band by having their moments in the limelight.
If you haven’t heard Pikul, I order you to listen immediately. If you have heard it, listen again. This 6-track EP, err 7-track EP has the ability to take you for a ride again and again.
Consume.Review.Repeat. EP gives Pikul reissue 8.5 Lazy Eyes out of 10