A weird thing has been happening recently. Whales have started beaching themselves, committing suicide if you like, in their hundreds. Eighty – 80! – hurled themselves on to the sands in Australia a couple of weeks back and died by the score as helpless humans fruitlessly tried to roll them back into the briny depths. But it’s not just happening there, which begs the question: what gives with all these baleens buying the farm? Do they know something we don’t? Are the whales getting out of the game before the whole world goes even further into meltdown than it has already?
We’re asking this in relation to the new Silversun Pickups album partly because, well, one of the first things that you hear is the sound of mournful whale song, but also because ‘Swoon’ is a bit
of a dying whale of a record. In a good way; vast, dark, a little mysterious,
sad, dignified and palpably in pain. Frontman Brian Aubert has noted of the songs on ‘Swoon’ that “some are quiet and delicate… others are just fucking loud”. Yet even the quietest ones – the pristine, glacial ‘Growing Old Is Getting Old’, the sensuous, lovelorn ‘Draining’ – have a tendency to barrel into huge, awe-inspiring displays of momentum and amp-endangerment. But it’s when SP leave the volume on their raspy, rust-encrusted riffs high, especially on epic closer ‘Surrounded’, that they are most at home. That said, the twitchy, bass-driven ‘Catch And Release’ is a curious delight, all the imminent explosion of prime Nirvana with none of the pay-off, which is not to say that it doesn’t work – only the itchy, proggish ‘Sort Of’ is a damp squib. The rest of it, well – would ‘suicide anthems for whales’ be too gushing a compliment?