FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Sliverchair ‘Diorama’

When I was younger, I discovered most of my music from watching music television and award shows like the Grammys and Channel V (RIP). In 2002, my 12-year-old self sat on the floor to watch the ARIAs like I had in the years before, but this time around, I had no idea what an important musical milestone this would be when Rove McManus introduced Silverchair.

The won the award for Best Rock Album that night, for Diorama. It was also up for Album of the Year, but lost out to Kasey ChambersBarricades and & Brickwalls (an absolute robbery only matched by Shannon Noll‘s 2003 Australian Idol loss, in my opinion). After watching them perform The Greatest View on the night, I immediately went out to buy the album, but it seems I wasn’t the only one who had suddenly developed this urge to own a copy of that song, and album. Within 2 months of their ARIA perforamance, they sold an extra 250,000 copies in Australia, sending it back into the top 10. Originally, sales where burdened by the fact that after the release of the album in March singer/guitarist Daniel Johns developed reactive arthritis and was unable to promote or tour. But thanks to this performance, they finally achieved the recognition they, and this album deserved.

Starting the record with the fifth single Across the Night, I instantly realised I wasn’t listening to the same band that released Frogstomp 7 years prior. They had matured and progressed musically that was so noticeable I could even appreciate it back then as a 12 year old. Composer Van Dyke Parks, alongside Johns, arranged the orchestral components for this song so perfectly that it illustrates the ethereal and poetic lyrics of Across The Night even more so than the elements the band themselves provided. The mix of these parts coming together into such a beautiful song is part of the reason of why I love it, and this album so much. One of the reasons why Diorama is so important to me is because of how the lyrics dealt with the difficulty of depression. I was 12 and I remember sadness that I didn’t seem to see in any of the peers my age, and I found a complicated understanding when at the end of this song when Daniel Johns belts, “I don’t want to be lonely, I just want to be alone.

Many of the lyrics in the album deal with these complicated ideas of depression, escapism and dealing with expectations. This wasn’t new a new concept for Silverchair, but in Diorama they where far more complex. I think I may have driven my grade 7 classmates mental by making them listen to Luv Your Life so much. No one else seemed to understand the song, but I was continually the only one to bring a CD to class when we were allowed to listen to music, so they suffered through it. That was, of course, until the constant repetition of the track led to a class vote to ban the song. This only strengthened my love, or obsession with this song.

There are a few songs on the album that still held to the heavier side of Silverchair that grunge fans held so dearly, and tracks like One Way Mule and The Lever actually lead me to an appreciation of heavier music that I previously hadn’t been interested in. One Way Mule leads with a heavy guitar riffs, solid percussion and grittier vocals without jolting the flow of the album, and still showcases Daniel’s writing ability with lyrics like “Love me for my mind ‘cause I’m a dangerous heart, when I’ve got time to kill I’m coming back to you.” Damn Daniel!

Diorama will always be the first come to mind when someone asks me what my favourite album is. It helped me understand more complicated music, and encouraged me to search beyond the Top 40 radio hits I had normally stuck to. It lead me to The Beach Boys, through the use of vocal harmonies in songs like World Upon Your Shoulders; I delved into later records The Beatles from the way songs where structured into multiple parts in Across The Night; and I became interested in singers like Kate Bush who used falsetto through the vocals in Too Much of Not Enough.

It’s almost been 15 years since Diorama was released, and I haven’t stopped listening to it. Like any good relationship, it only gets better. I am forever getting into arguments with grunge and 90’s Silverchair fans about how Diorama is one of the greatest albums of all time, and I can guarantee I will for a long time.

Read more: Flashback Friday: Silverchair’s Frogstomp

Image: Andrzej Liguz/moreimages.net