Silverchair first came into our lives in 1995, when the fresh-faced teens from Down Under assaulted alternative rock stations coast to coast with their hit album Frogstomp, featuring such hits as ?Tomorrow,? ?Pure Massacre? and ?Israel?s Son.? It was an impressive and powerful grunge/rock album considering that the band members were in their early teens and playing to the angst-ridden, post-Nirvana set still coping with the loss of Kurt Cobain.
Since that time when they briefly dominated the airwaves, Silverchair has continued to crank out quality albums. Their second release, Freakshow (1997) showed musical growth and managed to yield a gold record here in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the band unleashed Neon Ballroom. Critically, the album was fairly well received, but the focus in the media quickly became lead vocalist Daniel Johns? struggles with anorexia nervosa (which inspired ?Ana?s Song?). Once again, the band managed to up their game musically, bringing us the undeniable power of ?Anthem for the Year 2000? and earning another gold record.
The fourth studio album, Diorama, let the band branch out even further than before and move in a more art rock/progressive direction. This time, Johns also took the reigns as co-producer, alongside David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson) and Van Dyke?Parks (Beach Boys, U2)?not bad company to keep in the studio. Though the album managed to capture six ARIA awards in their native Australia, it didn?t fair as well as previous efforts due to little international promotion, partly as a result of to Johns??poor health. This was a true turning point for the band as they announced an indefinite hiatus following the tour.
But enough with the history lesson. No longer at odds with their pasts, the future of the band is now. Young Modern, their first new studio album in five years, once again takes the band in new directions. The band returns with Diorama co-producers David Bottrill and Van Dyke Parks (who provides depth to several tracks with orchestral arrangements). It is obvious Silverchair is no stranger to reinventing their sound and this album is no?exception. It has twinges of Bowie, a throwback style in a similar vein to the White Stripes (but with more of a ?70s-soaked faux Conway Twitty vibe) and a sprinkling of pop and, at times, a hard rock element.
The main progression is in the vocals of Daniel Johns. His voice was always powerful on previous records and sometimes the focal point of the band. Now he uses it as more of a tool and seamlessly blends it with the different styles of music. One of the strongest tracks is ?Young Modern Station,? a powerful song in the same vein as ?Anthem for the Year 2000.? The band shines and may find some radio play with the melodic sounds of ?If You Keep Losing Sleep.?
Many artists dabble in these genre-straddling experiments and I, for one, find it interesting to see what they have under the hood. Results are often mixed, but Silverchair gets it right more often than not. With so many styles coming together as a unit, there is something to appeal to everyone on this record. The easiest way to describe this experimental brew would be to say it is more Bowie than Nine Inch Nails. This is just another step in the growth of a band and it is definitely a step forward.
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