PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Silverchair: Young Modern

Nick Pearson

Silverchair return with an album completely different than their older material, but pretty bad nevertheless.


Silverchair

Young Modern

Label: Virgin
US Release Date: 2007-05-03
UK Release Date: 2007-04-02
Amazon
iTunes

Once you reach the level of intellectual maturity where you can tell the difference between cryptic but poetic lyrics and nonsensical crap, you have outgrown Silverchair.

Bands that become big during their teenage years are pretty much doomed to self-destruction once they reach adulthood, but somehow Silverchair have survived. While each album they released has reached multi-platinum status here in their native Australia, it's been a downward slide in sales around the world since their hit debut Frogstomp. Singer Daniel Johns made it out of his teenage years after suffering severe depression, anorexia nervosa, and crippling rheumatoid arthritis, and after a bunch of side projects, has come around to reform Silverchair to make Young Modern, their first album in five years.

1995’s Frogstomp was, from a record company perspective, a marvelous idea. A non-threatening collection of angsty teenage grunge songs, actually performed by angsty teenagers. Songs like "Tomorrow" and "Pure Massacre" appealed to angst-ridden teenagers the world over, and the fifteen-year olds found themselves playing rock festivals that they were too young to gain admission to.

And while it was easy to criticise Frogstomp for all its shortcomings -- its lack of originality, poor lyrics, sloppy musicianship, and uncanny resemblance to Pearl Jam -- the truth remained that it was still a pretty good effort for three fifteen-year olds from the industrial city of Newcastle.

But with their musical tastes developing, as is the case with all adolescents, their style was never static. 1997’s Freak Show bore the frustration of not only being a teenager, but having the pressure of being Australia’s second biggest band of the decade (behind the Wiggles). The songs were loud, dumb, and great fun to jump around to, but only one number, "Petrol and Chlorine", indicated that there was more to Silverchair than just being noisy.

The band progressed from grunge to hardcore to baroque pop with each album, the only real unifying theme between albums being the hesitance to record anything that wouldn’t get played on commercial radio. Or at least commercial radio in Australia. 2002’s Diorama was a genuine step in the right direction, but for every majestic blast of florid pop ("Tuna in the Brine"), there was a dumb burst of dirgy grunge ("One Way Mule").

Five years and several side projects on, Young Modern is what seems to be a deliberate retreat to the safer territory that has too long been dominated by upstarts like Keane and Snow Patrol. Lead single "Straight Lines" feels like nothing but a drawn-out introduction to a song, while the opener, "Young Modern Station", sounds like Bends-era Radiohead trying to be ironically commercial. Not even the lovely George Harrison-esque slide guitar of "Low" can salvage a song that feels simply half-baked, while "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is downright awful.

Gone are the Seattle sounds that dominated their first two albums, and with Daniel Johns’ shortly cropped hair, it seems that the only thing he now shares in common with Kurt Cobain, who he was frequently likened to, is his inability to write lyrics.

Nick Launay, best known for producing no-wave records from artists like the Birthday Party, Gang of Four, and the Virgin Prunes, as well as the noisier of Nick Cave’s later releases, has developed an album that is uncharacteristically slick. It feels like the sounds are so polished that you could see your reflection in them. But the production, coupled with the tightly rehearsed band that Silverchair have become, especially with Daniel Johns’ effortless falsetto, make the record too clinical to enjoy on more than a superficial level.

The only promising number on the album is the adventurous "If You Keep Losing Sleep", bookended with tumultuous Beach Boys backing vocals, and tastefully held together with the sweeping orchestral arrangements of Van Dyke Parks. If anything, "If You Keep Losing Sleep" is proof that Silverchair are capable of recording interesting music, even though they so readily aim for the most boring styles most of the time.

Young Modern displays a band with the talent to do something new, but without the guts to try.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.