In the summer of 1996, I was 15. Pearl Jam was working on their fourth album already, Soundgarden on their fifth, and Kurt Cobain was dead. So when Silverchair hit the scene, saturating MTV and radio with a well-produced three chord slow pitch right over the plate entitled Tomorrow, a few of my friends hopped on the bandwagon, while most, like myself, considered them too clone-y, too late.
I was aware of a second and third album following Frogstomp, but I skipped them. By 2002, they had fallen so far below my radar, I didn’t even know a fourth had dropped.
But the following year, one of those friends that had not only bought in, but followed the band ever since, made me listen to that fourth album. It was called Diorama, and it was produced by the talented David Bottrill, known for his work with Tool and King Crimson.
I was shocked to find anything but a three chord grunge band. Diorama opens with an epic, masterfully written opus, backed by a full string orchestra. Which flows right into a richly layered rocker, and continues to deliver through eleven tracks. It’s a truly amazing album start to finish- one of the best and most overlooked of the entire decade.
Assuming I had missed the opportunity to ever see the band live, I set out on an archaeological dig for some quality live videos from the Diorama tours. I was blown away by what I found- still a three piece, yet even more musically mature than I expected after my discovery of Diorama. All of their songs had clearly evolved from tour to tour over the years, and often the band would spontaneously drop into expert improvisational jam sessions that lit the stage on fire.
Last year, the band announced the completion of a new album entitled Young Modern. Here in the states, and in fact just about everywhere but Australia, the hype was largely even more ignored than Diorama’s besides some light radio play of the lead single Straight Lines. I however waited with baited breath. I bought tickets to their LA shows, by which point they had added two new guys to their live lineup, and I went alone when everyone I knew balked at the idea of seeing some “90s rip-off has-beens.” And it’s that perception that inspired me to write this. When the Young Modern track The Man That Knew Too Much came out of my iPod on shuffle mode this afternoon, I found myself determined to set the record straight in spite of the skeptics and haters.
Here are a couple videos from the live debut of Young Modern, which went down at Carriageworks in Syndey last year; Straight Lines from Young Modern…
…and The Greatest View, from Diorama:
Young Modern is less ambitious than Diorama, but that doesn’t mean it’s in any way dumbed down or half assed. It’s just a bit more direct, carried mostly by hook-laden rockers, with only one truly epic masterpiece, the seven minute trilogy Those Thieving Birds Part 1 / Strange Behavior / Those Thieving Birds Part 2, that provides the climactic midpoint between a strong beginning, and a happy, choir-backed closer entitled All Across The World.
If you still think about Silverchair the way I did (or didn’t) in 2002, I strongly recommend giving them another chance. Start with Diorama and see where it goes from there.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.