When Dave Grohl formed Foo Fighters out of the ashes of Nirvana, it was originally something of a solo gig – he wrote all of the songs on the “band”'s debut as he recruited players. But with their second disc, 1997's The Colour and the Shape, Foo Fighters truly became a collective, writing and recording the disc together, and achieving their breakthrough hits “Monkeywrench,” “My Hero” and “Walking After You.” Now the RCA/Legacy label has reissued the disc to celebrate its 10 th anniversary, and the new edition includes six bonus tracks, including the title song “The Colour and the Shape,” which didn't actually appear on the original release. The new edition also includes new liner notes, wherein band member Nate Mendel acknowledges that although they may be a better band technically today, this is the album that Foo Fighters will always be judged against. It definitely holds up as a strong rock album a decade later.
Who could have foretold the metamorphosis that Australian band Silverchair would go through following the release of their first disc, Frogstomp, in 1995, which got them lumped in with the Seattle “grunge” band movement? That formative disc gave the young members – who'd played together since primary school – their first taste at stardom, and Freak Show, their second album in 1997 would go on to sell 1.5 million records – all while the band was still trying to finish high school!
By the time their next release came about, the grunge scene was over, and the band a bit more mature and coming into its own identity… and singer-songwriter Daniel Johns started breaking free of all the labels that had been laid on Silverchair with the release of Neon Ballroom in 1999. With Diorama, in 2001, the band completed its metamorphasis – there's no way the uninitiated could listen to Diorama and Frogstomp back to back and even have a hint that it's the same band.
Unfortunately, the band's support of that amazing new millennium album was sidelined for months by Johns' health problems, and the band didn't actually play live to promote the disc until 2003. A long hiatus followed that tour, but at last, now in their late 20s, Silverchair is back with their fifth, and possibly best disc, Young Modern.
Silverchair has truly grown up, and Young Modern continues and builds on the cinematic intensity of their last release, melding Beach Boys-esque harmonies and string arrangements with a modern rock intensity. Legendary Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks reprised his Diorama role, penning orchestrations for three of the songs, and throughout the 11 tracks on Young Modern, the band displays an astonishing maturity and inventiveness, dropping song after song of catchy pop-rock that is, frankly, uncategorizable. There are lazy, cozy interludes, jaunty guitar stomps, falsetto croons, hip-shaking rock riffs… this is an album to get lost in – it's a panoramic world unto itself.
Muse fans will appreciate the progressive rock attack of the opener “Young Modern Station,” while anyone who has sworn themselves to reform their ways will nod at the smartness of the piano-accented power ballad “Straight Lines”:
“waking up strong in the morning
walking in a straight line
lately I'm a desperate believer
in walking in a straight line."
There's a postmodern vibe to “If You Keep Losing Sleep” that XTC fans might identify with, and a Beatlesque beauty to “Reflections of a Sound” that will haunt your dreams with harmony for days. Every track on this amazing album is a unique, layered and yet still accessibly simple masterpiece.
If you like music, you owe it to yourself to hear one of the best examples of pop fusion that has been recorded this decade. Don't miss this album. Find out more about it and the band at www.chairpage.com.
Catch Silverchair live at Lollapalooza this weekend (along with DOZENS of other bands, including, ironically, their grunge-scene mates Pearl Jam) in Chicago on August 4.
Sound the Alarm
The latest entry in the school of what I like to call “whiner rock” is Sound The Alarm. The band's debut CD Stay Inside is out now on Geffen, and it's a polished punky pop collection of a dozen guitar rock tracks that sound remarkably familiar from the first listen. You've heard this album before from a whole crop of bands – Third Eye Blind, All American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, My Chemical Romance – all of these bands write songs that feature a steady twining buzz of guitars coupled with interconnected harmonic vocals. To me, all of these bands tend to hang on notes too long and sing in a high register which makes them sound like they're whining… but certainly they've all hit it big on radio.
Sound The Alarm hopes to follow suit with a similar formula. They've got some solid songs – the ironic opener “Closer” is one of the catchiest pieces on the disc, opening with a building pound of drums and a crunching bass and guitar riff that drives into a high-energy head-banging chorus. “Picture Perfect” follows, with a hint of Third Eye Blind in the vocals, and “Suffocating” has a slowly unraveling lead vocal and background harmonies that sound like an All American Rejects track.
Derivative, absolutely. But if you like the bands they borrow from, you'll probably find a song or two to jam to on Stay Inside.
For more information, check the band's website at www.soundthealarmmusic.com.