Wednesday, May 23, 2007
It's a strange many-coloured beast this album. Covering so many bases, genres and never settling for one guitar track when 5 xylophones and a theremin will do. Home to magnificently over-arched song-structures and instrumentation, from it's odd modernist, Mondrian-like cover to it's frankly balmy Van Dyke Park arrangements (straight from his gloriously understated work with Joanna Newsom on her Ys album) this is unlike any album of recent years. Straight Lines has already brought home how successfully they've evolved from the grunge wonders who packed out Hobart Town Hall supporting You Am I in 1995, and it's once you get past this obvious single that things get strange (though not quite as strange as the image of Molly Meldrum on Sunrise, holding up a copy of Seargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Young Modern claiming there was no difference in importance between the two). Dementia aside, this is an significant release and one which may well reveal greater depths with repeated listens, but after a dozen, Young Modern only serves to show how Johns' has effectively become Silverchair with an orchestral abandon of horrorshow proportions.
There is a shallow, needless complexity to songs that seems almost entirely pretentious and overblown. With garbled nonsense like: "Such seductive silent wine hop scotch trigger / If you keep losing sleep over other lovers / If you keep losing me are you gonna be / If you're up chimney sweep under rubble covers" it seems the emo audience is being courted now their grunge and Oz-rock credentials are assured. It's incredibly unlikely Johns thinks this way, but it is unusual how the 'chair's canvas keep getting bigger and bigger, with the 80-piece Czech Philharmonic Orchestra pushed to their avant-garde limit to facilitate his and Parks' uncontrolled abandon. One can see Johns listening to My Chemical Romance and being impressed with the sheer pomposity, and without a trace of humbleness or a sense of humour deciding to aim for the same target in the way the emo bands (most straddling 30) find timeless appeal in an endless stream of sad, moneyed teenagers.
Constantly bordering on confusion of the most self-indulgent and ugly kind, it's more conventional tracks like Waiting All Day, Reflections Of A Sound, Mind Reader and Straight Lines that remind you why they are one of the most loved bands of recent decades and when they stay out of Prague, can still write decent tunes. At the very least they don't sound like anyone else, which is far more than you can say about any other successful Australian band at the moment.