Monday, August 27, 2007

The Mystery of Silverchair

Jackin' Jack White.

Australia has no bands. There is nothing. I don't know why, exactly....they're their own continent, and yet their only consistently chart-topping rock band was an American footnote in 1994, whose singer married Australia's only apparent female artist...Natalie Imbruglia, a woman who seems to have nothing in common with Daniel Johns other than we're-famous-I-guess-let's-hitch. I could be wrong, as I'm a fucking yank and this whole post is pretty ignorant, but neither of those artists has anything I'd call an oeuvre. My last Natalie Imbruglia experience was the horrifying entry of "Wrong Impression" on the CVS radio cycle during the night shift there the last time I worked retail, and if there was any justice in the world, the Corrs would've shot the bitch nine times. Silverchair made two albums I was embarassed my best high school friend loved, then one that I'm pretty embarassed I loved, and then one that I only skimmed the singles on. All of these were pretty justly shot down by anyone in the rockcrit biz who'd heard music before 1994, particularly for their inane lyrics, and I reserve a special bag for tears everytime I have to submit to one of Johns' "metal" experiments, like "Spawn Again" or "Lie to Me." Questions "Learn to Hate" leaves me wondering:

-Why did Johns want his "relationship to be the same as yours" by being "friends with her too"? Okay, we're all friends. This is menacing?

-Wait, if he "hated everyone just like you," why would he want his life to match up with "you" in any way? This is some stalker shit.

-Isn't "Hating you should be introduced as a new law," the kind of grade-school diss that makes Jim Jones look like a formidable opponent for Jay-Z?

-Why would one have to take time to learn to hate? Is it really that complicated?

-What "mass debate"? On hating? The debate on hating? Is that being televised down under?

-What's all uphill? Why are we climbing? And why is the word "climb" the angriest-sounding in the song?

-What drugs give people "all kinds of different sores"? Why is Johns' "friend" taking them? And most importantly, why is this worth mentioning in a lyric that runs maybe 20 lines deep?

And that one's on an album called Freak Show and followed by a sitar/tabla experiment. Yak. I didn't know these dumbshits had a new album at all (their first in five years...ooh the anticipation), until Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly deemed it four stars and A- worthy. Well, fuck. When did these guys get any good? So I peeped Young Modern. It's certainly different. All that douching around with orchestras and faux grandeur already netted them their finest song ever, the gloriously dressed-to-impress pre-emo epic "Emotion Sickness," and "Tuna in the Brine" was a strange collaboration with Van Dyke Parks that suprisingly worked. But while Silverchair has yet to create an album of songs instead of bulletin board of good and horrible ideas, Young Modern's certainly close. Now I'm impressed; I certainly never expected to be writing about Silverchair in 2007 at all, much less copping to an actual maturation that possibly justifies the hype. For some reason, everyone's been getting grandeur right this year. VHS or Beta's new album rights all of Interpol's wrongs, not to mention Duran Duran's. Against Me! braided agitated post-oi and Queen into Butch Vig pop art like Nevermind nearly 20 years ago. And now a brainless group of Teens with Ambitions has put over their tune album.

I get suspicious when the critics care about random '90s castoffs though, even if Nada Surf really did 180 to greatness. And though Young Modern is as well-crafted a piano opus as a Ben Folds Five album, it's also as poorly stocked as a Ben Folds Five album. Harvey Danger's similarly-minded Little By Little yielded at least four or five songs I kept on my hard drive last year, but this one will be lucky to have two or three. "If You Keep Losing Sleep" definitely, with its 18th century cymbal-crash audacity, "Those Thieving Birds (Christ, parts 1 & 2)," with its half-baked McCartneyisms certainly not. Except then part two is kind of okay. So it looks like Silverchair is still a band of just good and horrible ideas. Why can't Johns just take a page from his wife's career and hire some songwriters?


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