SILVERCHAIR "Young Modern" Eleven/ILG WE ARE THE FURY "Venus" One Big Spark/East West

By Mark Jenkins (The Washington Post)


AUSTRALIA'S contribution to grunge's second wave, Silverchair scored an international hit with its 1995 debut album, "Frogstomp," recorded when the trio's members were still too young to drive. Singer-songwriter Daniel Johns is a lot more versatile than the band's early work reveals, and Silverchair no longer sounds like Pearl Jam. But that doesn't mean the threesome has ever quite come into its own. Although the band's first album in five years is titled "Young Modern," its idea of modern is the early '70s, when David Bowie and Queen were bending hard rock with campy falsetto, light-classical accents and Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired vocal arrangements.

Produced by new wave veteran Nick Launay, "Young Modern" boasts catchy tunes and an up-to-date sheen. Synth pulses pace some of the tracks, and such near-epic pop-rockers as "Straight Lines" (an Aussie No. 1 single) and "Waiting All Day" have a spaciousness that suggests U2 and its many recent imitators. Yet the album's more arresting numbers are such glammy thumpers as "Mind Reader" and the ornate "If You Keep Losing Sleep." If Silverchair was once all too much of its time, its new album sounds curiously -- if not unpleasantly -- like a flashback to an era Johns and his cohorts never knew.
Anyone assembling a neo-glitter playlist should note that "Mind Reader" would segue neatly into most of the songs on We Are the Fury's "Venus." This Toledo quintet is punkier than Silverchair, favoring faster tempos, noisier guitars and lots of tributes to rebel girls. ("Ohio's not for lovers," laments singer Jeremy Lublin, yet he seems to spot a lot of leather-clad Venuses.) If the Fury is rougher than Silverchair, both bands are partial to clomping beats, falsetto choruses and arrangements that echo Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" period. "I know it's not a new sensation," concedes "Now You Know," but such rollicking tunes make lipsticked hetero-boy retro-rock sound pretty timely.