It has taken awhile for me to be comfortable enough to admit that I like musicals. I bought a radio a couple months ago just so I could listen on Saturday and Sunday mornings to Standing Room Only - the all musical block on WERS. It's a big step for me. As a younger person I could never quite admit it because musicals are, like totally lame, dude. I can remember in the 7th grade some of my friends wanted to do a song from Grease for the talent show and needing three guys to fill out the chorus. I jumped at the opportunity - I was born to hand jive! Throughout the entire process I did my best to play along as if I was just doing this for the girls, but in all honesty I just wanted to sing.
There's something about musicals that speaks to me. That could be in part because songs from musicals speak everything they are thinking or doing or feeling. There's no mystery in why there's trouble in River City, Harold tells you - it's pool and that starts with "P" and that rhymes with... something. They're honest and direct songs. A good musical number can expose a deep part of the human condition and sometimes it's vulnerable - think of everyone's favorite least favorite person Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables: Direct, vulnerable, passionate. It's real and it's honest and that kicks ass. I'm not embarrassed of that anymore.
That brings me to 2002 (holy shit, that's over 10 years ago) I was 15 and still trying to find myself. If I remember correctly it was late winter, my Dad brought me to the Best Buy on Airport road in Toledo, Ohio. I had gone right after school to pick up the latest album from Silverchair. I had grown up on their music, and grown with it. I used to listen to Neon Ballroom and imagine what it was like in the studio while these songs were being created. I had never heard anything quite like "Emotion Sickness", it was direct, vulnerable and passionate.
In the parking lot my dad let me put the CD on the car stereo, he let it play for about 7 seconds before changing his mind and hitting eject. Seriously. Seven seconds. I don't blame him, at first listen it's a lot to accept. It's a lot to take in, especially if you have known Silverchair since their days as 14 year old prodigies. I get where people have a hang up about the newer and weirder Silverchair, they end up going through the five stages of a band you once loved changing their sound:
- Denial: This can't be the same band that I loved when I was 12, right? "Tomorrow", bro!
- Anger: This is awful, they no longer care about making good music. What a bunch-a-jerks!
- Bargaining: I will trade in all my Freakshow cassettes for this to be better. Please sing "Tomorrow" again.
- Depression: Well, music will never be the same again!
- Acceptance: ...
Usually the last stage is Acceptance but the problem is that most people are mad when bands change, and they are mad when they stay the same. There is no winning with some people. I like to grow with a band. In their early years they were angry, then they were furious, then they were depressed, and with Diorama they became okay with being themselves - it's like a light at the end of the tunnel. I found it to be the perfect and logical next step in their career.
This progress has made, in my humble opinion, Silverchair one of the most underrated bands in recent years. Diorama, and more specifically "Across The Night", shows that they aren't afraid to break away from what's expected from them. How boring would they be if they stayed angry 15 year olds? Sure, the sounds on Diorama are little musical and a little campy - but it's honest. Some people think that an honest song needs to be a stripped down acoustic ballad, but for me that's not true - it can be a giant Van Dyke Parks orchestrated tribute to Judy Garland or Kate Bush.
Silverchair does that and it demands your attention.
Side note: Their latest (and possibly final) album takes this idea one step further and if you haven't heard Young Modern, I would highly suggest giving it a full listen.