Silverchair - Frogstomp Murmur/Epic
By Dmitri Ehrlich (New York Times)
Frogstomp, the debut album by the teen-age Australian trio silverchair,
is bombastic in the brash way that adolescent males often are. But the
album also contains several unexpected charms, which explains why it
has gone platinum.
The band's cumulative age is only 46. Yet the guitarist and singer Daniel Johns has learned how to coax large sounds from his instrument, and the drummer Ben Gillies plays airtight beats punctuated by moments of controlled abandon.
silverchair has a carefully orchestrated sound, but one that is far from original. Obviously derivative of Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, the group proffers dark musical theatrics with a tossed-off air and a visceral, corrosive texture. Aggressive to a fault, Chris Joannou makes use of intentionally distorted bass line[s] juxtaposed against Mr. Johns' shimmery man-child vocals.
It is a combination that speaks of menace and violation. "Hate is what I feel for you / And I want you to know that I want you dead," he murmurs in Israel's Son. The lyric is lightweight and sung without much feeling, but the thickly laced guitars that cut into the song's chorus supply the conviction the words lack.
silverchair manages to copy the musical angst of the Seattle sound more successfully than the group is able to put into words. For this reason, Suicidal Dream, which comes off as a painfully literal expression of teen-age alienation, is easily overshadowed by the instrumental Madman. And the album's best tracks, like Undecided, are the ones in which the lyrics are undecipherable and the music pounds away in un-self-conscious blasts of adenoidal fury.