Silverchair--the band of three 15 year old prodigies from Australia who released one of the greatest grunge albums ever released. Frogstomp, released in 1995, showed their obvious potential and amazed the world with their musical maturity. Seven years later, at age 22, Silverchair released Diorama, their 4th full length album. Most bands would just be making their first EP. Every album to this point had its own identity, and never had Silverchair produced just another Frogstomp. What would Silverchair have in store for us this time around? It's different, that's for sure.
Diorama takes more than just a few styles of music and meshes it into Silverchair's own blend. Gone are the big, chunky riffs from songs like Israel's Son and in are brass sections, sweeping string and woodwind runs, and piano ballads. The grandiose album opener, Across the Night, demonstrates the new form of Silverchair that Diorama shows off. Starting with just Daniel Johns and a harpsichord, he croons a song about restlessness and dreaming for love. After about 15 seconds, a full wind ensemble enters and takes the stage as the main instrumental theme throughout the song. Flutes and violins play sweeping runs. A bit later in the album, Tuna in the Brine sounds like a redoing of Across the Night for the first 20 seconds, however, the song takes a darker turn. The wind ensemble is present for this song as well, but Tuna in the Brine feels less grandiose and more longing. The low brass makes a few statements, and the piano sits overtop playing arpeggiated runs.
Sticking to the guitar less Silverchair, the album closer, After All These Years, is strictly a piano ballad with a small string section. The song starts out sounding like it could really go somewhere, but you get to the chorus and it is a let down. The only lyrics in the chorus are "After all these years, forget all the troubled times." The chorus is repeated too much and starts to annoy the listener. However, the stand out on this track and the entire album is the strength of Daniel's singing. He found his own voice and doesn't sound like just another rock singer.
That's not to say that Silverchair forgot their past. This album still rocks in other tracks. One Way Mule takes you back to the Frogstomp days one last time. A huge guitar and bass riff is the main instrumental theme of the song and Daniel puts back the raspiness found in Tomorrow. The dark lyrics fit the song perfectly, "Love me for my mind, 'cause I'm a dangerous heart" After a 2 verses and choruses, the song picks up energy into the instrumental breakdown and the guitar solo. After the guitar solo, Ben Gillis puts out some double bass kicks, something new added to Silverchair's grunge mix.
Not quite a grunge song, but still a definite rock song and the best of the type on the album, Without You sounds like a sum up of everything Silverchair has done up to this point. The chorus has just enough hook to pull you in, but doesn't sound overproduced or like they're trying too hard. After a typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song structure, the band throws something else out to please the listener at the end of the song. There's a minute long instrumental outro that flat out rocks. The chord structure at the end really drives the song home. After the song ends, there's another minute long keyboard chord build reminiscent of Radiohead's Treefingers. The problem is that it leads nowhere and just doesn't fit at all.
All in all, Silverchair put out an ambitious album that shows even more potential from the young yet experienced band. Songs like Across the Night show a whole new direction, and yet they still know how to put out a great rock song and continue to add new ideas to their old formulas. Daniel Johns found a voice of his own that sounds great and with a bit more work can take him to the upper echelon of singers. Silverchair has plenty of time in their lives to make a better name for themselves.
Across the Night
One Way Mule