An Open Letter to Silverchair

It was with genuine sadness that I heard you were breaking up.

It was with genuine sadness that I heard you were breaking up.  In such a modern way, too.  No farewell album or final victory lap around the nation to say goodbye to the hoards of concertgoers who would most certainly be keen to see you one more time.  Instead, all we got was a note on your website.  It told us that after nearly twenty years you were putting the band into ‘indefinite hibernation’.  Although hibernation is, by definition, not indefinite, it’s still probably fair enough.  Given that you were barely old enough to ride in the front seat of sedan when you started, no one could really deny you the right to call it a day.

I can remember where I was when I first saw you – I was still at University, living in a share house in St Kilda.  The members of the house played together in a band.  It was 1994 and grunge was at its zenith.  We, however, did not play grunge music – we were a funk band.  In 1994, this was roughly the equivalent of showing up to school in a pair of bell-bottom trousers.  A television show called ‘Nomad’ was running a band demo-tape competition.  This, of course, was back when bands still had demo tapes, and didn’t simply post everything online and hope for the best.

I can’t recall if we entered.  I do, however, remember watching as the winners were announced and being slightly insulted at the fact that you were too young to shave.  I think I was determined to hate you.  When they played ‘Tomorrow’, it was clear that you were still getting the hang of how to play your instruments, but then there was the matter of that remarkable voice.  It was a better voice than a fourteen year old can rightly possess. 

I wasn’t the only one who wanted to stick the boots in – you faced derision from all quarters.  Some even called you ‘Nirvana in Pajamas’.  Even Courtney Love got in the act.  (Then again, you could probably say that about pretty much anything and stand a reasonable change of being right.)  However, Courtney Love aside, you stayed together and made better and better albums without seeming to suffer the inglorious slide into obscurity that befalls so many who find fame at a young age.

I’m sad to see you go for a few reasons, but for now I’ll try and focus on the positives.  When bands break up, it’s as good a reason as any to listen to a few of their CDs.  It also means that tribute bands can now pretty much go for broke.  I don’t know about you, but personally I prefer my tribute bands with a bit of a twist.  I am frankly dying to get along to my local beer barn to hear – Hi Ho Silverchair performing your songs in a country and western style.  Then there’s the all Sri Lankan DaSilvachair, who will shortly be touring the east coast.  My absolute favourite, however, remains Salvochair – where your tunes are performed by the Salvation Army Brass Band.  Those guys rock.

So what exactly have you left us?  Five albums in all.  Well done, too, for having the good taste to spare us the ‘Live at the Budokan’ double CD that record companies used to issue to test audience loyalty whilst simultaneously lightening their wallets.  All in all, you delivered on most of rock and roll’s key performance indicators. High profile romance and bust up?  Check.  Career threatening illness and triumphant comeback? Double check.  Unexpected artistic left turns?  You better believe it. You failed, however, to give us a decent rockumentary.

When I say ‘rockumentary’ I don’t mean the twenty minutes of footage of the band fooling around in the studio that’s thrown in as a bonus with the remastered version of your album or something that’s little more than a long-form advertisement.  I mean a warts and all, white-knuckle ride through the very worst that the human experience has to offer.  Even Metallica managed to give us that much. While I think of it, you could do worse than to drop a line to Metallica’s therapist – the one with the colourful sweaters – perhaps he could convince you to reconsider the whole ‘indefinite hibernation’ thing.

I think I’m sad in that you’re almost the last of an era.  In the 1990s, bands like Regurgitator, The Fauves, You Am I and This Is Serious Mum gave us great music – it was almost an embarrassment of riches.  But as the years have rolled on, these bands have mostly broken up, or simply vanished.  It may show my age, but the new bands don’t seem half as good.  In fact, the worst thing I can say about modern music is that it is safe and dull.  Bands today would never release a song as interesting as ‘(You’ll Never Be An) Old Man River’ or ‘I Like Your Old Stuff Better than Your New Stuff.’  (I know that titles weren’t your strong suite.  But what you lacked in memorable titles, you compensated with melody.)

So long, Silverchair – best wishes for whatever you decide to do next.  I mean it.  But on a practical note, if after a couple of weeks at home any of you find yourselves at a loose end, can I interest you in joining The Black Metallic Pearl Effect?  We haven’t rehearsed yet, so I can’t really tell you what we sound like.  I’d probably guess a bit of a mix between Regurgitator, The Fauves, You Am I and This Is Serious Mum.  We will not, however, be playing funk.  That is, not unless you think we should.


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