Review Summary: A revitalized Silverchair releases an album more symphonic and dramatic than anything they've ever done with plenty of accessibility.
The buildup to Silverchair’s release of Young Modern was epic, more epic than the album itself. After Diorama, it seemed that Silverchair had broken up, especially with Daniel John’s reactive arthritis, overcoming anorexia, and various illnesses that crippled him and put him out of performing and playing guitar for over a year. He went to work with Paul Mac on a side project called The Dissociatives and they released an album. From there, Johns began working on a solo album. It was then that he realized how much he needed his band. Although living in England as a socialite married to Natalie Imbruglia, Johns quickly returned to his long time bandmates to return to the stage and the studio with arguably the most famous band ever from Australia, Silverchair. In early 2005, the band played their first show in about 2 ½ years. After playing a few shows and rediscovering how to be a band, Silverchair went to the studio and took their sweet time creating Young Modern. With all kinds of press publicizing the album (including one of the best articles from Rolling Stone), it seemed that Young Modern would be a glorious comeback for the Australian superstars.
Where Young Modern would lead the band, however, remained a mystery. Had Daniel Johns gotten all of the obscure pop out of his system with Paul Mac, or did he still have some left in him? Would they retrogress to Frogstomp with a grunge sound? Or would it be something completely new, a further evolution into the band’s sound. Johns describes Young Modern as being about “acceptance”. It sounds as if Silverchair have finally accepted their past, needing time to themselves to understand what they had together and what they had done. In a way, Silverchair’s latest album combines their previous sounds and pushes further into a twisted blend of symphonic electronic rock.
With Young Modern, Silverchair no longer sounds like a Daniel Johns project, shown by Johns gleefully stating in the opening track Young Modern Station
, “the band is back together.” In a blend of uptempo rock with pulsating keyboard chords and feedback, Young Modern Station fits perfectly as an album opener. It displays the album’s core sound and possesses the most energy of any track on the album. Johns highlights the full range of his voice, jumping from his natural voice to falsetto with ease. His lyrics refer to the healing consequences of coming back to Silverchair. They are not, however, the showcase on this track or the entire album. Instead, his vocal quality and shifting melodies are the highlight of the album for Johns. His diverse range allows for songs like Reflections of a Sound
. Although it begins terribly cheesy, with a short acoustic introduction followed by a generic electric drumbeat that sounds ripped out of a McDonald’s commercial, the song bursts into the cheeriest Silverchair chorus ever. Before it gets too happy-go-lucky, a minor chord settles in as John’s changes the tone of his voice and lyrics masterfully.
The spastic tonality of the music plays a big role in the album but hardly ever comes from the core three members of Silverchair. Instead, Paul Mac, the band’s perennial keyboardist, and famous string arranger Van Dyke Parks become the musical stars on the album. Mac might as well be a permanent member of the band as he plays on every track on the album, while Van Dyke Parks adds tons of musicality to all the songs his orchestra plays. The tracks Those Thieving Birds (Part 1)-Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)
are one epic track split into three, full of Parks’ best work. Beginning with great guitar work and deep piano and fluttering pizzicato strings, it feels like a waltz from the romantic period. Johns performs perfectly on the opening of the track, only playing as a part of the music instead of trying to overpower the whole band. Strange Behaviour
, the middle section and the bulk of the epic settles into a groove of catchy melodies. The strings continue to play excellently, but become accompaniment to the core band. Unfortunately, the final section of the song fails in justifying the rest of the epic. Johns struggles with his melodies, as most of it is in his falsetto. It gets better when the guitar and strings return from the first section, but it is easily the weakest of the three sections.
Young Modern has one major flaw- its ambiguous sound as an overall album. Very few moments stick out after a full listen of the album. Instead, a strange blend of orchestra and rock with even stranger tonality comes away with the listener. The album also ends anti-climatic with All Across the World
. It features more strings, but the production of the song allows even the strings swells and crescendos to lose much of their effect. When listened to in short intervals, there is a lot to grasp from a band with a huge mainstream status. It is not as good as the ARIA awards will undoubtedly make it out to be but still one of the better mainstream listens of the year. Although the airwaves will blast nearly every song from this song repeatedly, especially in Australia, Silverchair provided plenty of music for people to enjoy.
Young Modern Station
Reflections of a Sound
Those Thieving Birds (Part 1)/Strange Behaviour/Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)