If you have been reading The Tripwire of any length of time, you are already aware of our infatuation with the Los Angeles group Silversun Pickups. I was first introduced to this band over two years ago, watching them perform in front of a dozen people at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. It has been a fascinating journey, watching this unknown quartet finally getting the attention they deserve over the past year or so. Walking into the packed, sold-out Mercury Lounge last night for their first headlining gig in NYC made me quite proud of Brian, Nikki, Christopher and Joe. After singing the praises of their band for a while now, we definitely felt some personal satisfaction seeing our friends taking it to the next level.
One thing that hasn't changed with Silversun Pickups is their attitudes. They are still the friendly, cool guys (and gal) that they have always been, even after the recent maelstrom of press, hype and even a camera crew from MTV following them. The band took the stage promptly at 11pm, rocking their devoted fans until well past 12:30am. One thing is for sure, frontman Brian Aubert made sure that everybody got their moneys worth out of the show.
SSPU kicked things off with "Melatonin," which is the first track off their debut LP, Carnavas. The male/female duel vocals of Aubert and Nikki Monninger sounded great on stage, completely balancing each other out. The raspy, aggressive style of Aubert works so well with the sweet, almost shy sounds of Monninger. The band then kicked it up a notch with their single "Well Thought Out Twinkles," giving them a chance to fully get their rock on. Between the noise of Aubert's guitar, Joe Lester's keyboards, Monninger's melodic bass line and the unbelievable drumming of Christopher Guanlao, it was (as the guy next to me eloquently put it) "fucking amazing."
Many comparisons have been made to the Smashing Pumpkins when describing Silversun Pickups, which I guess is true to a point. SSPU and the Pumpkins share a love for big, melodic guitars and feature slightly raspy, higher-pitched vocals from their frontmen, and have female bass players, but that is where it stops. In fact, the beauty of SSPU's guitar sound has just as much in common with Hum as it does with the Pumpkins. Sure, the Pickups owe a nod to '90s alt-rock, but their indie rock sound sounds far from dated.
After spending plenty of time with Carnavas, it was very interesting to finally hear all the new tunes in a live setting. "Little Lover's So Polite" takes on a totally different vibe on stage, rocking quite a bit harder. The band took it to a whole other level during "Future Foe Scenarios." The tag team noise work of Aubert and Lester makes for some of the most impressive live sounds I have ever heard. It is cool that they have the skill (and toys) to pull off shit like that on stage. As the song built up to its explosive ending, with guitar blazing, Aubert screaming his heart out, Guanlao beating the living hell out of his drums, all while Monninger kept it all together with a steady bass line, you then realize that this band is fucking special.
My wife and I were trying to figure out what we thought was the best song of the night during our cab ride back home. For me, it may have been "Lazy Eye." Perhaps it was because this was the first time I have seen them complete that one live without breaking a pedal or an amp blowing out. Aubert's soaring guitars build up to a climax of beautiful distortion, as it is truly one of the most powerful live songs I have ever been fortunate enough to experience first-hand. Ah yes, and there was "Dream At Tempo 119." Simply put, it kicked ass.
Silversun Pickups played their hearts out to the sold-out room last night. Tossing in oldies "Kissing Families," "Creation Lake" and "Comeback Kid" as a treat to their dedicated fans, it was a great evening at the Mercury Lounge. After chatting with our pal, drummer extraordinaire Christopher, we left exhausted, soaked and completely satisfied. For those of you who have yet to see Silversun Pickups live, make a point to catch one of their upcoming shows. They are the real deal. After several years of hard work, their time has finally come.