photo & text by nacrowe
there was this moment in the fall of 1995 when my family made this huge decision to move from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA to AFRICA. i was only 11 at the time and looking back its most definitely the most identity and consciousness-shifting moment of my life. in many ways, that move shattered my self-image and my connection to past attachments related to AMERICAN culture and attendant mentalities. in essence i have ever since been a THIRD CULTURE KID to date with all its associated pros and cons.
and the soundtrack to that transition was FROGSTOMP (MURMUR, 1995) by second-wave AUSTRALIAN ALTERNATIVE ROCK band SILVERCHAIR. i first heard this record through the "TOMORROW" video on MTV at a friend's place in the TUDOR CITY neighborhood of midtown MANHATTAN, where we stayed for a week before flying to GERMANY and later connecting to NIGERIA. in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA we didnt have MTV or cable television for that matter, so this was a new experience. i remember during this same trip first becoming aware through MTV of other artists like the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS ("AEROPLANE"), JOAN OSBORNE ("ONE OF US"), MARIAH CAREY ("FANTASY"), THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ("LUMP"), SKEE-LO ("I WISH") and ALANIS MORRISETTE ("ONE HAND IN MY POCKET").
i think what separated SILVERCHAIR from those other artists i was exposed to was their aggressiveness and their age. DANIEL JOHNS and company looked just a little older than me and they totally ripped. when i moved to NIGERIA there was another CALIFORNIAN that lived on my compound that had a copy of FROGSTOMP, where i discovered tracks beyond "TOMORROW" like "PURE MASSACRE," "ISRAEL'S SON," "SHADE" and "SUICIDAL DREAM" (the latter of which my middle school band covered). for a pre-teen they seemed pretty accomplished as songwriters and their music both melodic and hard-hitting.
i know they often get lumped in with other second-wave ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands like BUSH, LIVE, COLLECTIVE SOUL, EVERCLEAR and CANDLEBOX that got signed and became successful in the wake of NIRVANA. and as evidenced by their debut FROGSTOMP alone i can seen why critics would lump them in with those other largely derivative acts. whats cool about SILVERCHAIR and DANIEL JOHNS in particular, is how quickly he shed this sound and really explored his natural songwriting talent with a breadth and depth beyond his post-GRUNGE contemporaries. the follow-up FREAK SHOW (MURMUR, 1997) was more of the same but once the band came through with NEON BALLROOM (MURMUR, 1999) and later DIORAMA (ATLANTIC, 2002) and YOUNG MODERN (ELEVEN, 2007) there was a shift to broader, more expansive orchestrations less reliant on guitars and lyrical themes that were more self-reflective and effacing than the outward-facing critical dirges that marked the first two records. JOHNS is a fearless songwriter who later dove headfirst into his warped sense of self-identity brought on by a global celebrity culture that robbed him of his individuality, resulting in his taking control through food and becoming an ANOREXIC. its harrowing and courageous to be that bare and i feel his career has long been criminally underrated.
FROGSTOMP to me is that initial spark that blew up. it spoke to me at a young age and still does. makes me consider how ive transitioned over the years, even during that fateful transitional period between moving from CALIFORNIA to AFRICA in late 1995. regardless, FROGSTOMP is definitely worth checking out again.