Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:9 June 2019
Released in March 1995, by mid-year Silverchair’s debut album was #1 on the ARIA Chart. Rolling Stone magazine awarded it four-and-a-half stars. In Triple J’s “Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time” it came in at #2. Not a bad opening salvo from a bunch of fifteen year olds from Newcastle.
Frogstomp also sold extremely well in the USA, despite garnering some unfavourable comparisons to American bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Some wag even called it “Nirvana in pyjamas”. But that doesn’t bother singer and guitarist Daniel Johns, who recalls the first album with fondness. “It’s just three Australian kids thrashing it out in the studio and that’s exactly how it sounds."
The breakthrough came after the band—not yet named Silverchair—participated in a ‘new music’ competition on multi-cultural broadcaster SBS and blitzed it with the song ‘Tomorrow’. Radio play on Triple J followed, as did a recording contract.
It sounds like a fantasy story, and in some ways the Silverchair story does embody the dream of every bunch of teenagers slamming out rock and roll in the family rumpus room. There is an edginess, a rough intensity, to Frogstomp that belies the middle-school status of the boys. Even the band name, taken from the darkest of the classic ‘Narnia’ children’s fantasies by C.S. Lewis, shows the tension between childhood and adolescence; three boys thrashing around looking for a lightning rod for their dissatisfaction and confusion.
That’s what you get with this debut. Electric energy. It may be unsophisticated, but it sure packs volts and jolts.
As album openers go, ‘Israel’s son’ is a ripper. Chris Joannou’s bass slinks in, a dirty funky guitar line joins, and then Ben Gillies’ drums punctuate the groove, announcing that there is something more urgent going on than shaking your booty. When the trio explodes, the grunge-metal elements are obvious, but analysing the song—or indeed, the album—for influences misses the point. This is youthful confusion that sounds old and bitter; it is developmental weightlessness that thumps you in the solar plexus.
If some songs lack a certain focus or if the album falls away a little in its later stages, we can forgive these things. A youthful debut album is, inevitably, an exploration; an experiment in recording. Frogstomp started a journey that saw Daniel Johns develop and expand as a songwriter and the band go on to great things. And none of that diminishes our enjoyment of this first slab of glorious noise. Indeed, there have been half a dozen vinyl re-issues and another lovely one from Music on Vinyl out now. It’s easy to see why those who soundtracked their own paths towards adulthood with the first Silverchair LP would want to grab a copy. It’s also totally understandable that the energy and angst continue to beckon new audiences. Stomp on.