90s score: 8/10
2016 score: 8.5/10
For those who didn’t grow up in the nineties, it’s hard to get a feel of what the entire grunge movement was. It’s been boiled down in culture to its most basic elements: angry teenagers in plaid, cargo shorts, and Doc Marten’s. Its poster children were Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder. Here’s the catch: if a millennial were to ask me to play him just one album to represent grunge, it wouldn’t be a Nirvana or Pearl Jam album. While both are fantastic, but Nirvana is too punk, whereas Pearl Jam sounds too clean and has too many classic rock riffs.
I’d throw on Silverchair’s Frogstomp. Who better to represent a generation of pissed-off teens than an actual band of pissed off sixteen-year-olds? Yup, these Aussies were still only midway through high school when they recorded this album. Vocalist and guitarist Daniel Johns’ voice even sounds like it’s still breaking at certain points.
Just turn on track one “Israel’s Son.” You start off with a dirty, rolling, distorted bassline that sets you in groove. Then a chunky, angry riff kicks you in the side of the head. Johns opens the album wailing apathetically, “Hate is what I feel for you/ And I want you to know that I want you dead.” Not grunge enough? How about the chorus, “All the pain that I feel/ Could not start to heal/ Although I would like it to.” Still don’t get it? Well how about when song just kicks in to high gear, knocks you in the teeth, and Johns just starts screaming? Yeah. Grunge.
After that ends, you hit “Tomorrow.” This was a staple of alternative radio, the track that launched their careers. This song displays way more musical maturity than a bunch of teens have any right to have, but growing up too fast was the point of Gen X, wasn’t it?
“Pure Massacre” represents this generation’s protest of injustice around the world, bemoaning the world’s seeming indifference, as the lyrics show: “Machine guns pumping/ Hearts thumping/ Death is all around/ People crying for freedom/ No one hears the sound.”
This album is filled with fantastic, heavy, sloppily distorted riffs. But I need to give special attention to the instrumental track “Madman.” This track proved that grunge could rock just as hard as Metallica did. The whole proceeding has a very Motorhead feel to it. It says, “thanks for coming, now fuck you,” without actually saying a word.
While they’re never included in the conversation with their Seattle brethren, Silverchair captured the zeitgeist of the era perfectly. Maybe it’s because they weren’t marketing to the Gen X’ers; they were the Gen X’ers. When Johns says, “Growing up, it’s like a civil war” in “Cicada”, he’s not speaking from memory.
I think their young age caused them to be looked at as a bit of a novelty act, and they didn’t get the respect they deserved. Yet this band accomplished more by age 20 than most bands ever do. This album still stands the test of time, and deserves another listen.
Written by Richard Brunette
*edited by Kate Erickson