Carnavas
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2007
... and see them live any chance you get!

You know you're getting old when: 1) you have to rely on MTV2 to hear new music, 'cause your old college radio buddies grew up long ago, got married and have kids; 2)the sound that defined your college years are now a "revival."

But rather than be bummed out by this, I've gone the other way. Lured in by the stunningly simple video for "Lazy Eye" I went ahead and bought the whole Carnavas album. I have to admit that on first listen I didn't think it was special. But the more I listened, the more layers washed over me, and before long I was a solid fan, pushing the album on all my friends.

Sure, I too thought of "Gish"-era Smashing Pumpkins. And not that SSPU doesn't have some Billy-C influence in the mix; but you could just as easily argue the presence of other underground icons of the early 90s: Sonic Youth, Lush, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Sunny Day Real Estate, to name just a few. I have to laugh a little at just how 90s the band even looks, right down to having a chick on bass (we all pay homage to the original alt-rock goddesses, Kims Gordon & Deal).

So maybe it is something of a fomula at work in the Pickups and in "Carnavas," but boy can they pull it off. Despite all the references to the "wall-of-sound" age (or perhaps because of the mix), they still manage to sound fresh and contemporary. Maybe they are "rough around the edges," but why should that be considered a bad thing (bands are at their best and purest when they're young and raw). Besides, listen to Pikul, and then Carnavas... they're growing fast!

I admit that it's hard to remember (or even discern) the lyrics or even song titles on this album. But I promise you, the melodies and riffs will stay with you for days. You can't help but feel the emotion in their compositions and in their performances. Of course "Lazy Eye" is epic, but "..Twinkles," "Future Foe Scenarios," and just about every other track hits the right spot between shoe-gazing trance and boot-stompin' ferocity.

Much to my excitement, I found SSPU were playing a gig in a nearby suburb of Baltimore! Last night I went to the show. Simply stunning. I saw first-hand that these songs were meant to be performed live. Brian's wail rides atop his crunching guitar like another layer on his effects pedals. Christopher's drumming is fierce and rock-solid, a wonderful mess of flailing arms and hair from the riser behind. Joe sits at his keys stage right of Brian. Leaning over the console, cigarette hanging from his lip, he could've been mistaken for the PA, but his contibutions to the glorious noise are seemless and nearly invisible. And Nikki does the cliche proud, grounding the soundscapes with a rolling rumble of bass.

For over 1.5 hours, SSPU ripped through most of the Carnavas album and an encore of Pikul tracks. The crowd, completely enthralled, fed off the energy of the performance; and the band was noticably affected by the response. I haven't seen so much genuine heart and hunger in a band in a very long time. And though Silversun couldn't make me 19 again, I'm still riding on the high of the experience. Support this band anyway you can... they deserve it.
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60 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2006
This heavily-hyped band from the epicenter of heavy-hyping, Los Angeles, is likely to draw a lot of lazy comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins. Over-amped, distorted guitars, melodic songs with soaring choruses and plaintive vocals are all in evidence. On "Carnavas," their debut, they're at least closer to the Pumpkin's early albums, eschewing the grandiosity that made Corgan's later work such a chore. Actually, they seem to have more in common with another young L.A. band, Autolux. Both are clearly indebted to the noisy soundscapes of My Bloody Valentine and the more melodic moments of Sonic Youth. Listen to "Carnavas" back-to-back with SY's recent "Rather Ripped" and you'd think the two bands could be cousins. Mind you, SY's songs are stronger and their guitars more gloriously f***ed up, but Silversun Pickups have plenty to offer as well. Like Autolux, the Pickups manage to fold their more experimental tendencies into their songs, and when they stretch things out, like on album closer "Common Reactor," they drone instead of jam. Sometimes they're even genuinely hypnotic, but even as Brian Aubert's guitars soar into the stratosphere, they keep their feet on the ground (actually, they kinda have to; otherwise, they couldn't reach their effects pedals). Another nice touch are the keyboards of Joe Lester, which curiously makes the sound warmer (as opposed to the chilliness of say, Radiohead). Lyrically, the band traffic in the vague, elliptical imagery that have been a staple of indie rock for more than twenty years. At the very least they're modest, not self important. The propulsive "Future Foe Scenarios" begins "The things we laid do not amount to much/made of abandoned wood and stones and such." All things considered, while Silversun Pickups are anything but original, they survive comparisons to their inspirations fairly well. While it's not something that you probably "need," you could do a hell of a lot worse.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2006
Silversun Pickups get a lot of Corganishishness thrown their way for the sake of vocal inflection, but on their new record "Carnavas," they've pinned down that elusive "love in neutral" tone that only bands like My Bloody Valentine have managed in the past, and spitshined it with a melodic Guided by Voices sheen, yielding white noise-pop that sparkles from the glint of all the fuzzy edges.

Something like "Well Thought Out Twinkles" could only be called soda pop, recalling everything from the La's to "Adore"-era Pumpkins (with human drum machine Chris Guanlao filling in for the less-earthy computer), caffeinated and shaken up in a mixer until it resembles gender neutral shoegaze. Perfect sunshine pop lies buried under a truncheon of fuzz--you can hear it if you listen--but it's been beaten and whipped like a birthday cake into something excited but not sure of what emotion it's feeling.

Their influences are as varied and distinct as a fruit smoothie: "Dream at Tempo 119" sounds like the best-produced early Robert Pollard track you've never heard sung an octave higher, and stuff like "Rusted Wheel" broods with the best of them before sprouting wings to fly off the axle into territory occupied by like-minded contemporaries Lovedrug and Amusement Parks on Fire.

"Carnavas" is like the best of the past wrapped up as a gift to the future. If reviving seductively aggressive '90s noise is next in line behind rainy day '80s new wave in the future of pop music, take comfort in knowing that once you pick the Silversuns up, you're only going to want to listen to them over and over and over and...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2006
I can't quite put my finger on what they sound like. Yeah, some emo/shoegazer in there. Maybe a splash of Pumpkins but I don't see the overwhelming Corgan references. It's really a unique CD. As soon as I heard a 30 second clip I felt I was home. Simply the best CD I've bought in a long time. Probably since Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. That's it. It's like Radiohead if they were a rock band and with more coherent vocals.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2007
So I was driving home from work at about 3:45 in the AM and my station was playing an hour of new music from unheard artists because as we all know they can do that then because no ones listening to the radio at that time... Anyway, I was listening and all of a sudden this song came on. I was instantly curious on finding out who it was. As it turns out it was the track "Well Thought Out Twinkles". I had to go out and buy the cd the next day because of it. Now it might not be the best thing to ever come to radio but it sure is really good. There are quite a few tracks that I really love on this cd alongside a few okay ones. None the less the cd is pretty good. My favorites from the cd are "Melatonin", "Well Thought Out Twinkles", "Lazy Eye", and "Third Seed". The cd itself is very relaxing as well as interesting because I havn't heard anything quite like this. Here's my album ratings...

1. Melatonin - 10/10
2. Well Thought Out Twinkles - 10/10
3. Checkered Floor - 9.5/10
4. Little Lover's So Polite - 8.5/10
5. Future Foe Scenarios - 9/10
6. Waste It On - 8.5/10
7. Lazy Eye - 9.5/10
8. Rusted Wheel - 9.5/10
9. Dream At Tempo 119 - 8.5/10
10. Three Seed - 10/10
11. Common Reactor - 9.5/10

Overall : 92% A-

It's an overall pretty relaxing listen. There are a lot of good to great tracks and the cd was the complete opposite of a disappointment as I bought it on a whim. As it turns out I had heard the song "Lazy Eye" before without realizing it. Since I can't tell who they really sound like I couldn't tell you what types of people would like this so anyone into modern indie music should give this a shot.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Silversun Pickups are definitely classic-grunge revivalists -- much of the time, they sound like gauze-wrapped version of a very solid grunge band. With those nice grimy, twisty riffs, "Carnavas" is a nice, rockin' little debut album with some pleasant creative moments.

It opens with the buzzing basslines and choral voices of "Melatonin," buzzing and murmuring through a moderately epic melody. "She ran into the wall/so sweet and unknown/a worn comatose," Brian Aubert croons in a high, mellow voice that sounds pleasantly Billy Corganish.

But things get harder with the sizzling smash-it-down quality of "Well Thought Out Twinkies," blasting thunderbass over a bed of solid drums. From there, they dabble in other grungey styles -- grimy slow-burners, elusively shimmery rockers, and even a catchy, relatively mellow guitar-pop song or two.

It's easy to compare the Silversun Pickups to the Smashing Pumpkins, but they don't really sound too much like them (especially since there's no "wall of bass" sound here). Their music has a solidarity of its own, and there are moments that hint at future expansion -- epic riffs, the interplay of the instruments, and the haunted air of the whole thing.

Musically, it has some good tight rock rhythms -- sprawling, gauzy, dirty riffs and roiling basslines, paired with smashing drums and a sublte interplay of keyboard and riffs. But some songs dispense with the bass for the time being, and use ethereal, fragile-sounding synth waves instead.

Aubert has a nice, smooth voice that is has a pleasantly androgynous sound, and he never gets buried in the solid rock sound here. The lyrics do need work, though -- they tend to be rather simplistic ("and it feels just like the ground/and trapped in another way/just still in the ground"), and could use a more refinement.

The Silversun Pickups are still rough in "Carnavas," but they show some good musical skills and plenty of promise. Solid full-length debut.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2007
Well, do you miss bands who used soft/loud dynamics, soundscapes through swirling guitars, and twisted through an ACTUAL unique sound? Silversun Pickpus are there for you, if that's what you are looking for. Yet at the same time, I don't know if it's the easiest "first listen" album. In fact, I was pretty underwhelmed when I first heard from them. I think it was the Smashing Pumpkins comparisons, and that's one of my all-time favorites. I wanted something similarly moving. It's not quite that way.

But then again, Siamese Dream and Adore are my two favorite albums by the group and the main template for the release. There's also a bit of a Modest Mouse sound. The group seems like they have quite a bit of potential. "Waste It On" has an awesome main bass riff. Oh, the lead singer doesn't really sound so much raspy, it's like the guy's got helium but he's not necessarily whining or making a Geddy Lee impression even. It's also not really a nasal mid-range often. They're the only group today who could call their success "trippy" and be precise. They came out of nowhere and are still on an independent label, and the mainstream picks them up like nothing else already. "Lazy Eye," the current single, isn't even one of the better songs on it. That one's okay, but I think it's the reason that I didn't care for the guys (and a girl) at first to begin with. Time will tell how this album and its hype turns out to be, but overall I'm satisfied and it's an overall pleasant listen. I can't complain; I got this for $7 after all. The low price and Smashing Pumpkins comparisons drew me in, as well as the single starting to grow on me.

Definitely should be welcomed to fans of older alternative/indie who want something new to their collection. I can't wait to see what they do next. I imagine they're ready for something big in the future, but I just don't know if I should be holding my breath just yet.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2006
Stripped down Billy Corgan and Doug Martsch garage recordings. That is a great description of this band's sound. On this album you will hear hints of Built to Spill, Smashing Pumpkins, Lake Trout, Deftones, Coheed, and Clap Your Hands, but there is no ripping off going on here. Some of these influences dominate the album, and others show up on only one or two songs. What other band has a sound which is that wide ranging?

There is a great pace to this album - very well arranged. No disrespect to Built to Spill and Band of Horses, but this is by far the best album of the year. And I really, really love the other two.

Here is hoping that this album opens the door for a good band with a somewhat similar sound and a lot of talent in Lake Trout. It is far past time to banish the Montreal - New York glam punk retro 80's sound, and this is the album to do it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2012
For my money, CARNAVAS is the best Silversun Pickups album. A great mix of distortion, harmonies, and spacey-guitar noodling, these 11 tracks are really solid. This early release didn't quite open doors for the band in the way that SWOON or NECK OF THE WOODS would later, but the music here is well-crafted and engaging. Many people have compared Silversun Pickups to Smashing Pumpkins, and I would say that the comparison is well-earned. The SOUND of the album is very similar to the Pumpkins' GISH or SIAMESE DREAM, but I wouldn't go as far to say that these similarities earn any badge of mediocrity or unoriginality. Instead, the sound is well appropriated and considerably less angst-ridden.

The album begins with the fantastic "Melatonin," highlighting all elements of the band: the catchy, dreamy songwriting, the nice backing harmonies, the space-rock guitar, the tight snare-and-kick percussion. Even when the band breaks out a full-on rocker, like "Well Though-Out Twinkles," it never feels ham-fisted. The band strikes a great balance between shoe-gaze and alternative-rock. The result is an album that is never dumb and never boring. CARNAVAS is an album that will stick with you; 6-years later I find it just as enjoyable as the first listen.

Even though the has endured, a few songs don't quite live up to the rest. "Dream at 119," and "Waste it On" don't have the same gravitas that other tracks do. The result is a great album that is punctuated by a few bum spots. Additionally, while the sound of the album is great, almost all of the tracks have the same tempos, timbre, and structure.

Recommended for fans of Smashing Pumpkins, Metric, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, or the Joy Formidable. Anyone who has a cursory interest in the early 90's alternative scene will probably find something here to enjoy. Suggested highlights for sampling: "Melatonin," "Well-Thought Out Twinkles," and "Lazy Eye."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2007
Very few bands to emerge in the new millennium have succeeded in bringing the 90's back by injecting modern elements into it while still retaining credibility. For the Silversun Pickups, however, they succeed where others may have failed (or just simply dumbed the formula down) on their dynamic full-length debut, "Carnavas." It's a sound you're bound to recognize upon your first listen, but which will bring you much to discover on each repeated listen.

So, let's get this out of the way, because it's unavoidable. These guys sound a lot like "Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness"-era Smashing Pumpkins. And I mean A LOT. In fact, that's what drew me into their music in the beginning. The afeminite vocals. Check. The prominent hooks delivered by bass. Check. Distorted guitars. Check. It's safe to say that if there was any band who got Billy Corgan's formula perfect, it's these guys. But instead of being mere carbon copies, the Pikcups at least add their own mark to the sound. Songs like "Melatonin," "Little Lover's So Polite," "Dream At Tempo 119" and the popular first single, "Lazy Eye" are the kind that get better and (gasp) still sound fresh with each repeated listen. "Rusted Wheel" is a personal favorite, and shows the band has a knack for the dramatic and can stray from the formula, just when you think the album might be slipping into predictability. Truth be told, there are some songs that are much better than others, and at times the vocal delivery can sound phoned in, but for a debut, it's nothing too bad. In fact, the album is just about perfect.

"Carnavas" may not ooze at the pores with originality, but at the very least, it stands out from the crowd. Play any of this album's eleven tracks next to the average modern rock fare, and not only does it stand it's own, but it's distinct and has flavor. It's simply a solid album that is perfect for letting yourself slip away. Truly, one of the rare albums these days that requires a good listen the whole way through each and every time. Are Silversun Pickups worth the hype? Well, they will appeal to many music lovers and create music that is simultaneously fun, smart and sincere. So the answer is definitely 'yes.'
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