Australian Rockers Silverchair Live At the Wiltern
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Silverchair are one of the most acclaimed and successful bands in Australian music history.
Silverchair released their winning demo in August 1994 – a track called “Tomorrow”. The song eventually spent six weeks at #1 on the Australian singles charts and 20 weeks in the top 10. In 1995 it became the most played song of the year on U.S. modern rock radio.
Silverchair’s debut album “frogstomp”, recorded in just nine days in early 1995, was a raw sounding slab of alternative rock. A #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand the disc went on to become the first Australian album since INXS to hit the U.S. top 10, selling more than 2.5 million copies throughout the world. As “frogstomp” and “Tomorrow” propelled silverchair to music superstardom through 1996 the group juggled memorable performances on the roof of Radio City Music Hall and tours with Red Hot Chili Peppers alongside full time schooling commitments back home in Newcastle.
After finally graduating from high school the band was able to spend much more time creating their critically lauded breakthrough, “Neon Ballroom” which was released in March 1999. The group’s songwriter, Daniel Johns had been battling personal demons as he attempted to adjust to Silverchair’s sudden success and he poured these experiences into his new batch of songs. Determined to shake the constant musical comparisons that had previously dogged his band, Johns created a truly original sounding album. Fusing heavy rock with orchestral flourishes and synthetic touches with powerfully emotional lyrics, the dark and haunting “Neon Ballroom” was universally acclaimed as a huge creative leap for Johns and his bandmates.
In June 2001 the band started work on their fourth album, “Diorama”. This time Daniel Johns set out to explore even more new musical territory. A range of other musicians were drawn in to contribute to the disc, most notably the legendary Beach Boys and U2 collaborator, Van Dyke Parks who contributed orchestral arrangements to three tracks including a lush epic called “Luv Your Life”. Also helping out again were “Neon Ballroom” sidemen, Paul Mac and Jim Moginie.
Diorama means “a world within a world”. It was a particularly apt name as this evocative work lifts listeners out of the everyday and carries you into a world of its own. According to Rolling Stone magazine in its four and a half star review, the album was “one of the boldest musical statements ever made by an Australian rock band”.
“Diorama” entered the Australian charts at #1 in April. It yielded the top 10 singles “The Greatest View” and “Without You” and the top 20 hit “Luv Your Life” as well as the airplay favourites “After All These Years” and “Across The Night”.
The band’s work on “Diorama” won them six Aria Awards (Australia’s Grammys) including “Best Group” and “Best Rock Album”. In a last minute surprise the trio returned to the stage to deliver a searing performance of “The Greatest View” which catapulted their album back into the national top 10.
Within another two months the disc had sold over 250,000 copies in Australia making it the fastest selling album of the band’s career in their homeland. It went on to be certified five times platinum. In spite of the musical challenges presented by the album and the band’s inability to tour or promote it, in Australia at least Diorama still managed to attract the biggest audience of any Silverchair release.
The group did a few big Australian shows in March/April ‘06 to roadtest some new songs and to help build a war chest to fund the venture. Then they headed to another house in LA where tracking commenced in a backyard studio called Seedy Underbelly. The album that eventuated – Young Modern – melds elements from each of the band’s previous works while somehow seeming more cohesive than anything they’ve done since their debut.
The disc was released in Australia on March 31, 2007 with overseas releases to follow in June/July.
This time around Daniel shared the producer role with Nick Launay who had helmed earlier ‘chair albums Freak Show and Neon Ballroom. Diorama producer, David Bottrill was brought in as mixer on Young Modern. Paul Mac was again on hand for keyboard duties as he was with the group’s two previous albums and legendary Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks reprised his Diorama role penning orchestrations for three songs. In keeping with the free spirited nature of the process his sections were recorded in Prague… as you do when you’re seeking 80 piece orchestras.
(By the way, this seems as good a place as any to mention that in addition to being a fine summary of the intent behind the album, “Young Modern” is also the nickname that Mr Parks has used for Mr Johns since they first met.)
Silverchair’s intent is clear from the brash guitar wail and the pounding drums and bass that give lift-off to the album’s opening track, “Young Modern Station”. “The band is back together” exclaims an exuberant Daniel Johns a few seconds into the song and it’s impossible to argue the point. Then it’s straight into the slow burning epic “Straight Lines” – the first single to be lifted from the album – and on through an album full of melody, invention and exuberance.
Of course Young Modern has big shoes to fill. Even though the members of Silverchair are still only 27 years old the trio has already had four consecutive number 1 albums in their homeland. They’ve received 39 ARIA Award nominations over the last 12 years and they’ve sold over 6 million albums around the world.
To top it all just a few months back they were the only artist other than U2, Radiohead and The Beatles to have three of their albums make the top 100 most popular Australian CD’s of all time in a big ABC TV poll (Diorama came in just behind Midnight Oil’s classic 10…1 as the most popular Aussie album on the list).
But the challenge of living up to this amazing history is not one that Daniel Johns finds daunting.
“It took me a long time to realize that the sound Ben, Chris and I make when we play my songs is something special”, says the Silverchair frontman. “I’ve been thinking a lot since we finished the album about were this fits into the other stuff we’ve done. The way I see it the first album was naivety, the second one was anger, the third one was depression and the last one was escapism. Young Modern is all about acceptance. It’s about embracing who we are as band and just really enjoying ourselves because that’s all that really matters. Hopefully listening to this album will make other people feel what we feel when we play these songs together because I’ve finally figured out that that’s a very special feeling.”