Pop quiz. Which Australian band has the most No. 1 albums in The Land Down Under?
Midnight Oil? Wrong. AC/DC? Incorrect. Crowded House? Negative.
The true musical wizards of Oz? Silverchair. Yes, the rocking trio best-known for their breakthrough single “Tomorrow” in the grunge rock days of the early 90s have placed five different albums atop the charts in Australia. While the band was more noted in the United States for initial albums frogstomp and Freak Show, the trio of lead singer/guitarist Daniel Johns, drummer Ben Gillies and bassist Chris Joannou, have apparently only improved with age, at least according to sales numbers in their homeland. The band's latest effort, Young Modern, has been their fastest seller to date. Debuting at No. 1 in Australia, just like their previous four albums, Young Modern has already been certified double platinum, even before its July 24 release in the States.
Gone is the grungy, angsty sound that typified the youthful rockers (even now, none of them are 30) during their introduction to the American audience. Young Modern, the band's first album since getting dropped by Atlantic, features instead a more straight-forward pop vibe reminiscent of acts like Coldplay and Snow Patrol. Though the dabbling in straight-ahead pop numbers is new ground for the group, it's not the first time they have veered from the modern rock genre. Prior to Modern, Neon Ballroom and Diorama garnered the group much critical acclaim. The former album incorporated heavy rock with orchestral arrangements. In 2002, the lyrically brighter Diorama netted Silverchair six ARIA Awards, the Australian equivalent of the Grammies. The album was recently ranked just behind Midnight Oil's 10 … 1 as the most popular Australian album in an ABC TV poll of the top 100 albums of all time in Oz.
With Young Modern, Silverchair continues its musical metamorphosis.
“Dan's songwriting has really evolved,” Joannou says. “Neon and Diorama were real complicated. On this, there's a newfound love for simple pop structures.”
There was some question after Diorama if the band would ever produce another album again. In the midst of an “indefinite hiatus” in 2004, a term that usually carries a rather permanent connotation in the music world, Silverchair had still not talked about reforming since the break began in the summer of 2003.
That changed in the winter of 2004-05 when the band got back in the saddle to perform at the Wave Aid Tsunami Relief concert.
“We knew we'd get back and play music together, but before Wave Aid, we still hadn't talked about it,” Joannou says. “We were still in contact. We weren't hating each other and then the opportunity came up to do the tsunami relief show.
“We only had a couple of days to rehearse and were just flying by the seat of our pants. It was an amazing feeling. We realized what the three of us had together. After that we got started up again straight away.”
The threesome took the severance money from Atlantic and played a few shows in their homeland to generate some cash. They took the spoils and spent them on Young Modern, determined that the album match their own vision, without any interference from outside financiers.
“We were making it just for us. No compromises,” Joannou says. “To have no involvement from people thinking about other things, thinking about how to market it, was one of the most enjoyable experiences. We're really getting on well and playing well.”
Fans in D.C. will get the chance to see the validity of that statement for themselves when Silverchair performs at 9:30 Club July 24. Tickets are $20.
• For more on Silverchair, visit www.chairpage.com.