Graded on a Curve: Silverchair,
Freak Show

Grunge spawned a monster, and its name was Silverchair. The trio hailed not from the Pacific Northwest but from Australia, where the dingos eat babies the way a fat man scarfs down canapés at a formal affair. Silverchair didn’t even wear thrift-store flannel shirts, although I did see a guy in the press wearing one. It looks like it cost two hundred bucks. And then there’s that name. Grunge bands should have grungy names. Silverchair is not a grungy name. Silverchair sounds like something a monarch sits his regal ass on.

Now I would never put down Australia. It gave us the kangaroo, the didgeridoo, and Men at Work. But you’re as likely to find grunge in Australia as you are to find cucumber sandwiches on the menu at an Outback Steakhouse. But Silverchair—which has been on an indefinite hiatus since 2011—didn’t let that stop them. In 1995 they released their debut LP Frogstomp. Freak Show followed in 1997. Australia began life as a penal colony, and Silverchair made me wish it still was.

I like to think of Silverchair as a TV game show. I’ve yet to come up with a name for said show, but its rules are simple. Contestants need only listen to a Silverchair song and say something like “Song X is a Nirvana rip.” Or, “Song Y sounds like a Screaming Trees song they didn’t release because it sucked.” I’m leaning towards David Lee Roth as host. I love David Lee Roth to death.

But let’s play, shall we? “Roses” is Nirvana done wrong, and it isn’t vocalist Daniel Johns smelling in the song, it’s the song. “Freak” and “The Coming” also reek of Nirvana, although the lyrics of the former song (sample: “No more maybes/Baby’s got rabies/Sitting on a ball /In the middle of the Andes’) are the highlight of the album. “Cemetery” is Smashing Pumpkins with brain damage. “The Closing” is Nirvana filtered through the Foo Fighters then ground into a flavorless paste perfect for force-feeding hunger strikers.

“No Association” could be by any number of bands, but who really cares? Suffice it to say you won’t want to associate with it. “Slave” and “Nobody Came” are cutout bin Soundgarden, “Petrol and Chlorine” is Screaming Trees screaming for help. “Pop Song for Us Rejects” splits the difference between the Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. “Lie to Me” is early period Nirvana, all noise and speed and screaming, and the only song on Freak Show I can’t bring myself to completely loathe.

There are a few songs on Freak Show I can’t trace back to their sources, but I’m betting the game’s winning contestants will knock off with both ears tied behind their backs. Freak Show is generic grunge product, but it will no doubt please listeners who don’t place too high a premium on originality and prefer their music loud.

I live for the volume knob, but in the case of Silverchair the volume is meant to distract listeners from the band’s total paucity of new ideas. One can only imagine what they’d have done had discobilly become the next big thing. Invested in a glitterball and ripped off the Bee Gees and the Stray Cats, probably.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D-

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