Daniel Johns of Silverchair has a new band, so to speak. He has paired up with Paul Mac, who is known as one of the fathers of Australian electronic music. At least that is what I’m told; I am not familiar with the specifics of Australian electronic music. The two men met when Mac remixed Silverchair’s “Freak,” and contributed to some of the band’s other albums. However, for you Silverchair fans out there, don’t expect a comfortable familiarity with the The Dissociatives. Mac had a hard enough time trying to get Johns to even play the guitar again.
As one might expect from the participation of Paul Mac, The Dissociatives have a sound that relies heavily on electronic sounds. Try to imagine an Australian version of Air and you are halfway there. The mission statement of the duo was to shoot for something along the lines of Pet Sounds and the White album. As one may expect this has led to the production of an eclectic album that is full of melodies and harmonies.
The first song on the album, “We’re Much Preferred Customers,” is a good example of an album packed with things to hear. Daniel Johns is the only one credited with vocals, so I assume that the harmonies were created electronically, especially since the “surreal for the kids” choir is accredited to Kim Moyes. The Dissociatives have created a relentlessly upbeat album, and while this song sounds darker, the chorus repeats, “you’ll get a chance, another chance, one more sun.” It is speculated that it was written by Johns about the long hours he spent in an oxygen chamber, recovering from reactive arthritis.
“Somewhere Down the Barrel,” is a song I listened to, then found myself humming while I was trying to have a conversation at one thirty in the morning. What can I say; it’s extremely catchy and infectiously cheerful. The drumbeat, piano and liberal use of mellotron all combine with Johns’ singing to pound its way into your brain.
From all accounts, it appears that Silverchair is done with; I’m sorry to all of you who this affects adversely. “Aaangry Megaphone Man,” is the only song where fans may find some refuge in The Dissociatives’ work. The album also contains a couple of instrumental songs punctuated by the occasional whistle or ooh. Occasionally, Johns’ voice takes on the sound of someone in a boy band. He gives into this most on the song “Forever and a Day” and “Sleep Well Tonight, which I cannot abide by. Admittedly, I have problems with over-sentimentality, but that’s something I’ll just have to deal with.
Personally, I prefer the work of The Dissociatives to that of Silverchair; it has a more mature sound. This is no surprise as Johns is no longer the child front man, and has even managed to marry Natalie Imbruglia, which probably explains why she’s not returning my calls. Mac might be an older, if not more mature advisor, who brings a great deal of talent to the band. Overall, the pair has managed to produce a strong album, with the promise of a good deal more to come.