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Music Review: Silverchair – Young Modern

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Young Modern is the nickname that Van Dyke Parks, the U2 and Beach Boys composer, calls Silverchair lead singer Daniel Johns. Parks and Johns first met in the '90s. Parks composed songs on Silverchair's new album Young Modern. Johns first met band mate Bernard Fanning following Pantera in Newcastle, Australia. Newcastle is where Johns and wife, Australian-born Natalie Imbruglia, call home. There are only a few degrees of separation between Johns and his band and the rest of the world. But isn't Silverchiar just a '90s holdover?

The first thing to know in addressing Silverchair is that they are huge in Australia. No one has sold more albums or had more hits in the last decade than the native Australians of  Silverchair.  But in America, it seems everyone associates them solely with that frog on the cover of their first album, 1995's Frogstop. Before listening to Young Modern, I expected something representative of Bush or Creed some halfway heavy, halfway jilted  '90s rock. But then I heard the voice of Johns on Young Modern and it creeped me out. The lighthearted dream sound is not what I expected from Silverchair.

Lead singer Daniel Johns' voice ranges from high to low, in between, and back down, and its all fluid, no breakage. So it seems silly to classify Johns and Silverchair as a throaty grunge '90s rock band, have I made that point clear? It doesn't seem to be well known. In fact, billboard.com lists as Silverchair’s "artists-related to" bands such as  Live, Better than Ezra, Filter and Sponge. Memo to Billboard: the related bands page needs an update.

I like the rock orchestra sound of this album.  My favorite song, "Those Thieving Birds (Part 1) / Strange Behaviour / Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)" begins with acoustic guitar, and Johns singing real nice about birds and nests. Then we hear a little beat slowly develop. Eventually the song you're listening to is a clever Sunday driving song, only to be outdone as it finally morphs into total rock orchestration.

"Waiting all day" sounds like a song that might be playing if you were waiting all day in eternal bliss. The melody is soft to the ears, and is suitable for any journey through the clouds. However, if you are just looking for one great song off of Young Modern, try "Straight Lines."  "Straight Lines" has charted as high as 22 on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks. The music video version of "Straight Lines" is being featured on VH1.  And as far as the Australian Music charts it debuted at #1. Young Modern as an album has ranked as high as sixth on the Billboard Independent Album charts.

In the case against popular '90s bands, Silverchair comes back strong with a favorable win for bands that shouldn't have been "genrefied."

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  • Bernard Fanning is NOT John’s bandmate, he is the lead singer of another great aussie band, Powderfinger.