Music

Silversun Pickups: The Singles Collection

The Singles Collection works as a Polaroid to capture Silversun Pickups mid-career, taking a quiet pause, brimming with potential energy, before their next anticipated leap.


Silversun Pickups

The Singles Collection

Label: Dangerbird
US Release Date: 2014-02-25
UK Release Date: 2014-02-25
Amazon
iTunes

Silversun Pickups get compared to golden-era Smashing Pumpkins. A lot. The comparisons are founded, if a bit misaligned. The Pumpkins’ flare for the dramatic, religious, and theatric, seep through the filter of their enigmatic singer/guitarists/guru Billy Corgan. And much of Silversun Pickups, especially on The Singles Collections, cribs their drawn out fuzz, their shoegaze influence, and their singer/guitarist, Brian Aubert, pushes his vocals from the same brainy, nasal region as Corgan.

Mind you, drawing comparisons to one of the biggest alternative success stories of the '90s isn’t a bad spot to be in. And Silversun Pickups are built for the same arena rock blowout that the Pumpkins can muster. But, regardless of the surface similarities, much of the comparisons are nostalgic in nature and dressed up disguises for empty holes in indie music’s desire to sing along to something heavier in nature and lyrically sturdy. Silversun Pickups fill that void admirably, a blessing and a curse for their brand of smart, intense, sonically potent music.

The Singles Collection is simultaneously a worthy document of a band and a wholly unnecessary one, too. Every seemingly indie band with any type of crossover appeal can scoff at a collection of singles. Silversun Pickups has said that they don’t see themselves as a singles band, admitting what we all know, that singles collections typically fulfill two purposes: contractual obligations and/or time fill between new albums. Collections like this one can remind us of why we loved a band in the first place (e.g., The Killers, Direct Hits) or demonstrate the slow evolution of a band into something new (e.g, any New Order/Joy Division collection). For Silversun Pickups, this collection acts as both; a reminder that their melodic, grunge inspired singles are highly repeatable and sonically meticulous, and, too, that the band isn’t resting on their laurels, rehashing the same formula for later albums.

"Kissing Families", the only track to make it off the far-underrated Pikul EP shows off Silversun Pickups in their fledgling stages. It’s the only track to make use of empty space, as Aubert’s vocals are more remote, alone in space, while an acoustic guitar (the only time that instrument shows up) drives the main riff. There’s a refrain sung by bassist Nikki Monninnger, a lone cello solo (performed by Tanya Haden of the Haden Triplets fame), and warped psychedelic guitar solo that would become a sonic trademark of the band on later tracks. "Kissing Families" is a brick-and-mortar beginning that loops directly into the ubiquitous "Lazy Eye". Rock Band and Pumpkin fans alike can easily identify "Lazy Eye" (it really is the sister-song to the Pumpkins equally ubiquitous "1979"), and its ubiquity doesn’t diminish it’s hook. "Lazy Eye", "Little Lover’s So Polite", and "Well Thought Out Twinkles" catapulted 2006’s Carnavas to the Billboard charts, selling nearly 435,000 copies since its release. The songs are immediately recognizable, connecting viscerally with an audience hungover from the wild yelps of Animal Collective and burnt out on the majesticness of Arcade Fire. At the end of the day, the message that Silversun Pickups wrought was clearly received: it’s the melodies, stupid. Sing along if you want, there’s room for celebration in indie rock.

Swoon, their sophomore LP, is more desperate, with built in malice. You can hear it in the bigger, crunchier guitar lines, the intense string arrangement on "The Royal We", and most clearly in the song titles. No more lovers or twinkles here. They’ve been replaced with panic switches and a glaring unseen eye ("The Royal We"). Aubert’s lyrics aren’t political, per se, they're loose strings of images, sometimes startling, sometimes confusing: "Pink slip, inviting me inside/ I want to burn skin and brand what once was mine/ but the red news came ripping in to fight." More often than not, the lyrical subjects as in service of Aubert’s hopscotch song structures. Swoon contained more traditional choruses than Carnavas (both "Lazy Eye" and "Little Lover’s So Polite" are missing choruses), but the band builds tension with their instruments, especially Chris Guanlao’s manic, controlled drumming and Nikki Monninnger tumbling bass lines.

Singles from their third LP, Neck of the Woods start to show a turn in the band’s sound, notably in "The Pit" where electronic drums show up in a classic New Order left-turn. Likewise, the only new track on the collection, "Cannibal", uses the same electronic drum sound to a lesser effect. It’s the weakest track of the bunch, a used, quick snippet that lack all of the fundamental elements that make Silversun Pickups so damn listenable. Lyrically, the singles from Neck of the Woods are more focused. The band noted that the album was inspired by horror movies and "Blood Mary (Nerve Endings)" and "The Pit" tread this theme carefully, never falling into disarray or horror movie camp, while "Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)" helps the band gain more footing in their electronic soundscape.

For all purposes, The Singles Collection should not work as an album. The shoegaze, dream arenas that Silversun Pickups have created work best on a full LP where the band members can stretch their wings and indulge in aural textures and more bleeding guitar noise. But The Singles Collection works as a Polaroid to capture Silversun Pickups mid-career, taking a quiet pause, brimming with potential energy, before their next anticipated leap.

7

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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