Review, Silverchair - Frogstomp

By Jim Testa (Request)

Frogstomp, the debut of Australian trio silverchair, may not be the most original album of the year, but it's certainly one of the most accomplished, displaying a vaunting command of dynamics and tempo changes, and an impeccable grasp of the nihilism and frustrations shared by most young Americans. With its grinding overdriven guitars, guttural pain-wracked vocals, and swaying emotive rhythms, the album perfectly captures the feel and substance of classic Seattle grunge. That it comes from Australia is surprising enough; that it was produced by three 15-year-olds is nothing short of amazing.

silverchair's youth may be newsworthy, but the group can't be dismissed as a novelty act or manufactured by teen idols. Singer/guitarist Daniel Johns doesn't even sound like an adolescent; his raw, urgent baritone caroms from a whisper to a full-throated scream with the panache of a seasoned veteran, and his guitar playing showcases an explosive, multifaceted facility for both anthemic hooks and downbeat meditative solos. While Johns will inevitably be compared to Eddie Vedder, drummer Ben Gillies (who shares songwriting credits with Johns on seven of the album's 11 tracks) deserves props as a pubescent Dave Grohl, adding explosive snare and cymbal work to fill out the band's fat, full sound.

Unlike Ben Lee, the 16-year-old Aussie pop kid who records for the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal Label, silverchair eschews lyrics about with a volley of mosh-pit speed-guitar chug that's exhilarating. Pearl Jam-ish rockers such as Tomorrow and Faultline attack small-town complacency, wayward friends, and the societal indifference; Cicada is the band's Jeremy, the story of a dysfunctional childhood and the mayhem that ensues because of it. Findaway ends the album with an uncharacteristically chipper burst of punk rock.

The band even reveals an unexpected sense of humor on the wry and self-effacing Suicidal Dream: "I fantasize about my death/I'll kill myself by holding my breath," Johns sings in his best Kurt Cobain rasp, suggesting he's not only talented, but smart enough to realize that Gen-X temper tantrums he writes are just that. The kid is all right.

[Thanks to Amanda for the transcript.]