Silversun Pickups have never been a band that lends itself to typecasting or instant identification. While the band still lingers slightly below the surface, it has achieved sufficient buzz to qualify them as a band on the verge, one whose name can be dropped in any conversation wherever and indeed whenever hipper ensembles are mentioned. Indeed, their sound provides an intriguing combination of melody and mayhem, one that brings to mind such musical forebears as the Foo Fighters, Sugar, Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks, Smashing Pumpkins, and Husker Du. Granted, their driving delivery can sometimes seem ominous at first, but eventually it reveals a soft interior that’s at least accessible, if not always endearing.
Consequently, despite its engaging title, Better Nature, the group’s first album in three years and its fourth overall, doesn’t dispel that notion whatsoever. With this fearlessly adventurous sonic sojourn, the Silver Lake-based quartet continue to mine the same disparate textures that have distinguished them since the very beginning. Driven by what appears to be a combination of angst and anxiety, songs such as “Nightlight,” “Friendly Fires” and “Cradle (Better Nature)” soar on the strength of both steady propulsion and a jittery, percolating pulse that lends itself well to the band’s edgy disposition. Don’t be mistaken; it’s not exactly easy listening. Indeed, on a song like “Tapedeck,” the tone and tempo shifts quite dramatically from an anguished wail to hardcore industrial noise, naturally affirming the track’s darker designs. There are occasional moments of respite — the driving “Latchkey Kids” and the somewhat subdued “The Wild Kind” in particular — but those are the exceptions in this rugged mesh of atmospheric indulgence and unsettled emotions.
Suffice it to say, repeated listens are definitely called for. For the uninitiated that will be an absolute requirement to be sure. Likewise, the already initiated will also find it necessary, all the while ensuring that Better Nature will only get better each and every time.