Having extended Silverchair's musical boundaries about as far as they could go in the band's ten year existence, former frontman and mastermind Daniel Johns has now joined creative forces with fellow-Aussie Paul Mac, who did some mastering work and contributed keyboards for Silverchair on their last two releases and is one of Australia's renowned leaders in electronic music. Johns' interest in experimental quirkiness and electronic sounds was quite evident on 2002's impressive Diorama (Atlantic), so trading in the traditional four piece rock outfit for a forward-thinking project like this seemed inevitable. The duo call themselves the Dissociatives--an appropriately odd name for a unique brand of sonic fusion.
Reportedly "recorded in a dark basement through a beautiful English summer" according to the liner notes, it's not hard to hear the profound effect that too little sunshine obviously had on these men. Although the music has an essentially pop-oriented foundation, there is a very distinct dark and surreal thread running through the ten intriguingly hard-to-categorize compositions.
The disc opens up with "we're much preferred customers"; a creepy-sounding, piano-based number that sets the stage for what lies ahead, with lyrics like "men who wear abrasive hats with eyeballs judge like juries". The two songs that follow, "somewhere down the barrel" (the first single) and "horror with eyeballs" are both written in waltz time (my favorite), and are about a man searching for soulfulness in a cold world from which he feels disconnected. Based on Johns' long-standing disposition as a social outcast, one gets the sense that this recurring theme has autobiographical roots..
There are two instrumental tracks: "lifting the veil from the braille" and "Paris circa 2007 slash 08" ; the latter sounding perfect for use in a Gap or Levi's commercial, with trendy-looking teenagers dancing in the sunshine to their iPods. "thinking in reverse" is one of the more interesting songs in which Mac provides "various dub freakouts", and one of the disc's several guest musicians, Julian Hamilton, plays an ice bucket. "young man,old man" has a pleasant, country-rock feel to it, and is one of the four tracks that features the “surreal for the kids" children's vocal choir. We're sent back to the mundane real world with the disc's final track "sleep well tonight"; a short but sweet lullaby that is the only track in which Johns and Mac perform completely by themselves.
The Dissociatives' unconventional, left-of-center music is definitely not going to appeal to the masses, or even to many fans of Silverchair's early post-grunge style. However, for those with a healthy appetite for creative, inventive songs that follow no pre-set rules, this release should definitely satisfy their hunger.
In typical e.e. cummings style, the band has chosen to spell the titles of the songs in lower case letters, wreaking havoc on the established NT stylebook standards!--Ed.