Life lessons from the band’s most uplifting record
Masterpiece — mas·ter·piece: a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.
Not a term I through around loosely. But Diorama, Silverchair’s stunning fourth record, is exactly the definition above — both in its crafting and sentiment.
Across the Night:
Summer 2002: I was about to enter my senior year of college. As confused about life as ever, I was introduced to a new best friend. It was in the form of 11 artistic, innovative and spirted songs. In total, Diorama runs a little under an hour, yet somehow, I found ways to have it accompany almost every waking hour of those three months.
My family and I would go to Cape Cod on vacation each August. I remember the 2002 trip to be a perfect week there. Seven days of 80-degree sun with pristine beach days. Finally, I was 21-years-old and didn’t have to rely on scrappy fake ID’s to get into bars at night. Each summer up to that point, I had an ID taken by a Cape Cod bouncer, which would subsequently throw off not only my plans for the rest of the summer, but the upcoming year at school too.
Diorama had been released a few months prior. I immediately gravitated towards it as it was filled with hooks, and just sounds I had never heard before on a typical rock record. During that Cape trip, I became acquainted with more than the the sounds. I dove deep into the lyrics and emotion. It made me feel a zest for life that overflowed as I drove my Xterra in-and-out of the backroads.
When I’d pop the CD in, I’d magically get swept away into an OZ like atmosphere. It’s the only record experience I have ever had where it actually felt like the you got engulfed into the colorful vortex that is displayed in the album art. The journey begins and I am smiling from ear-to-ear.
I have no idea what Daniel Johns means at the end of opening track, “Across the Night”, when he glides into the, “So let us be married, and have another baby.” At the time, I certainly could not relate to the literal meaning. But to this day it is one of the best feeling song-outro experiences.
The Greatest View:
“I’m watching you, watch over me and I’ve got the greatest view from here.”
May 2002: My school year ended abruptly, forcing me home to New Jersey. One afternoon, I returned to my dorm from the gym and found my brick of a cell phone jumping all over my desk, filled with missed calls and messages. My grandfather had passed away.
Stunned and freezing cold, I called my mom. It was true. After five years of battling Alzheimer’s with everything he had, Papa decided to gracefully call it a day. I immediately packed all my things and drove home from Massachusetts. It may have been the hardest and loneliest four hours of my life. Music was the only thing that enabled the drive home. It made the car go. It was the gasoline, it was the foot on the pedal, the eyes that watched the road and steering wheel to guide the way.
Diorama was subconsciously in the mix, and when the “The Greatest View” came on I lost it. Not in sadness, but in “It’s OK, it’s going to be alright, keep going, I got you.” And I always felt like it had a sister in the Diorama B-Side “Asylum” because of the “every time I see your face in the clouds, I feel no violence” lyric.
My grandpa was a hero to me. We were incredibly close and even though I knew someday this would be the harsh reality, I was not ready for it. I am terrible with death. It rocks me to my core. Each time I have to deal with it, I feel part of me reshapes, sometimes in a way that I have no control over.
Diorama has the natural ability to shine a light on the joys of life and being alive. To have an injection of afterlife be a part of that, helped me in a way that I could never repay. The way Johns would sing live the “Now that you know…” bridges, only heightened the spark in my fascination for this song. I still think of Papa every time I listen to “The Greatest View” and I know that it’s true.
“You brighten my life…”
Here’s the thing about “Without You”, it is a great representation of the creative genius that is Daniel Johns. By definition, the phrase “without you” can give a negative first impression, yet it’s basically a love song that uses crafty words strung together to express just the opposite. The delivery is mesmerizing and still blows me away. From the ripping intro to the huge chorus to the fierce guitar outro, “Without You” is a fire-starter. It made me want to set forth into the world with a ton of passion — something I desperately needed with just a few months of school left in my life before I had “figure things out”.
Oh, and Johns last “without you” roar coming out of the final chorus is just not human.
World Upon Your Shoulders:
If “Withouth You” was the song that made me want to go chase my dreams “World Upon Your Shoulders” was the song that gave me the confidence that I can actually do it. I find it representative of the entire Silverchair Diorama process. It was such a courageous musical effort and endeavor -for a rock band to evolve in a manner that would result in songs that were layered with instrumentation. Pairing with the legendary Van Dkye Parks to add an orchestra to Silverchair?
You can argue that Neon Ballroom was a bridge and dipped the toe into the water. If that’s the case, Diorama was then jumping headfirst right off the cliff. Mind you, the guys are 21, 22-years-old at the time.
“When you’re not feeling ugly
The world’s not too much
Take the world upon your shoulders
Take the world upon your shoulders
And burn, burn, burn, burn, burn.”
One of the more underrated and thunderous guitar solos in the Silverchair catalog as well.
After All These Years:
“After All These Years” has a lot to do with why I call Diorama a masterpiece, mostly because of how it wraps up the entire collection of art. It’s a very- as I come clean song. With all the production and added orchestral components, the curtains close with just Johns, a piano and a few strings. It’s chilling how a record filled with waves of instruments ends with only John’s voice soothingly singing the word — “life”.
After all these years, Diorama still holds up in terms of a record I immediately resort to for an uplift. It’s a record that so beautifully captures the affections of life. With other components like the lyric, “Your making me ill and I can’t get enough” (from “Tuna in the Brine”), the “yes, exactly” connection to “Too Much of Not Enough”, the way Johns runs the word “moon” — (opening line of the second verse of “My Favourite Thing”) or just the overall crunch of “One Way Mule”, it’s an album that can simultaneously move you in ways you need and ways you never knew of.
I recently returned from this year’s summer trip to Cape Cod. As we drove the same streets from 15 years ago, I played Diorama frequently. The difference was, when I’d glance into the rearview mirror, I’d see the eyes of my kids instead of the eyes of the unknown.
In 2003, my senior year of college finished with Silverchair too. Immediately after graduation, I packed my car and drove home. I didn’t stick around for the post-parties. If I hustled, I had my chance to see Silverchair live for the first time at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. I somehow lost my shoes so I drove from Massachusetts to New York City barefoot. I stopped at my house, grabbed sneakers and made the show with my same Xterra packed to the gills.
The lights go down, Johns comes out alone… “After All These Years.”
The featured photo of this article is very fitting for the emotion of Dioroma. It’s gleaming with smiles physically and artistically. It’s gold-framed, and if you look at certain angles there’s a light that shines like a polystyrene hat.
Jeff Gorra’s Silverchair catalog:
Silverchair Roundtable: ‘Young Modern’ — 10 Years Later
Open Fire. Why “Ana’s Song” is One of the Most Beautiful Pieces of Music
Reflections of a Sound: 20 Years of Silverchair
Silverchair’s ‘Freak Show’ Turns 20. Artists, Producers & More Reflect
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