As I eagerly anticipate the upcoming release of Silverchair's first album in 5 years (titled Young Modern), I thought I might take a step back and share my thoughts on what I think is not only their best album, but one of the best albums by any group...Ev-ah! <--Hey, how 'bout that wacky spelling of the word "ever"...yeah, I'm still pretty hip.
After three albums of ever-evolving music, Silverchair mixed together everything great about those first three albums, added a heaping dollop of 1970's Queen-esque grandiose, and created an ever-fresh batch of ear candy. (As a matter of fact, I listened to the whole album (for the ba-jillionth time) this very morning on my trusty ol' iPod...which pretty much inspired me to write this post...but I digress (have you noticed that digressing forces you to use a lot of parentheses and ellipses?)...hmmm).
Seriously, not only did they add a heaping dollop of Queen-esque goodness, I think they channeled the creative spirit of Freddie Mercury himself from the afterlife. Ya know, you hear a lot of rock bands say stuff like "yeah, we're spending extra time in the studio to do something really special and ambitious...a lot like those old Queen albums" when they try to make an album that's creative and different from the norm...BUT, what usually happens is that they cut one or two tracks that sound like cheesy Bohemian Rhapsody ripoffs, and totally miss the mark on what made the Queen-sound so unique.
The studio pairing of Van Dyke Parks with Silverchair for Diorama created musical brilliance not heard since Roy Thomas Baker paired up with Queen to make their gems in the '70s. The elaborate orchestrations, vocal harmonies mixed in perfect unison with melodic music, and occasional crunching guitar riff, truly makes sweet music to one's ear. However, if you only know Silverchair from their 1995 grunge-rockin' debut album, Frogstomp, you may or may not be pleasantly surprised - as the first track on Diorama is not like anything heard on that album...
Track 1: Across the Night - The opening track let's you know right away that this is not like any of the other Silverchair albums. Lead-singer, Daniel John's vocals on this song are fantastic - especially when the song changes pace near the end - as the sweeping orchestration crescendos, John's vocals match and exceed the musical backing in such an impressive way, you'll fight the urge to give your music player a standing ovation upon conclusion.
Track 2: The Greatest View - The brilliance continues in this track, as they very subtly throw everything but the kitchen sink into this song (I swear I hear banjo before the second chorus...no cowbell though). Great vocals belt out uplifting lyrics while crunching guitar softly underlines this musical concoction, as it patiently waits to roar to the forefront in the form of a kickass riff (one which Jimmy Page would even be envious of) each time after the chorus.
Track 3: Without You - Guitars rage in the background, mixing with a thundering drumbeat in the foreground, to create a sonic thunderstorm that envelops what is really just your standard radio fare power ballad, but it's still a great song. Once again, vocals are great with a few changes of pace thrown in for good measure.
Track 4: World Upon Your Shoulders - If there is one "meh" song on this album, it would be this one (in my opinion). It's not a bad song mind you (it even has a bit of Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here-sounding guitar diddlin') , but when compared to every other incredible track on this album, it just seems a little vanilla. There is a neat little musical and vocal interlude in the middle of the song that adds a little spice though.
Track 5: One Way Mule - If there's a song on this album that even comes close to mirroring the hard rockin' grunge sound of their debut album, it would be this track. However, even this rockin' tune has some great harmonies and melodic sophistication to it.
Track 6: Tuna in the Brine - Ah man, this is THE ONE!!! This is Silverchair's Bohemian Rhapsody (although it might actually pair closer with March of the Black Queen) and Stairway to Heaven all rolled into one. If I were to make a Top 10 list of my all-time favorite songs, this one would be in the top 5! This song is a perfectly orchestrated wall of sound - emotional vocals, perfect harmonies, and just a fantastic sweeping scope!
Rating: Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant x 100!!! (yeah, I kinda like this song)
Track 7: Too Much of Not Enough - Fantastic rocker that sounds like it could be the lovechild of The Greatest View and One Way Mule. The matching bassline and guitar riff leading into the chorus frickin' rocks!
Track 8: Luv Your Life - A sweeping, symphonic ballad - yet with acoustic undertones - is this one. Classic lyrical moment - "I don't pay for sanity, but sanity don't come cheap". If you don't find yourself singing, or at least humming, along to this one then you just don't appreciate good music. This song sounds like a late-era Beach Boys and Beatles conglomeration (the Van Dyke Parks influence perhaps?).
Track 9: Lever - Straight-ahead rocker that reminds me a little of their song, The Door, off their 2nd album - Freak Show. The guitar riff throughout the song sounds like lightning bolts - lightning bolts shooting out of Emperor Palpatine's hands at the end of Return of the Jedi!
Track 10: My Favourite Thing - Another ballad-esque song...again, outstanding vocals and harmonies. I wouldn't say this song is "my favourite thing" (ahhhhh!...yeah...that was clever), but it is a damn fine thing!
Track 11: After All These Years - Now, this song is a straight-ahead mellow ballad - however, it too features the great symphonic orchestrations like the rest of the album. It's one of those songs that makes you feel like you should be sitting and reflecting on your life...can't say that I actually have, but ya know, I'm just saying that's what it makes you feel like.
Simply, one of the greatest albums I've ever heard. It will make you thankful for having two functional ears.