The Missing Link Between Thomas Dolby and Kurt Cobain

dissociativesA couple of recent posts on Progarchy regarding Thomas Dolby’s first two masterful albums brought to mind an album that fellow progsters may not be aware of: The Dissociatives. Probably my favorite album of the first decade of this century (What do we call that? The noughts?  The double-zeros?), The Dissociatives was a side project of Silverchair’s Daniel Johns and Paul Mac. Daniel Johns is an insanely talented songwriter and guitarist – Silverchair’s debut album, Frogstomp (1995), was recorded when he was at the ripe old age of 15. It’s basically a reiteration of Nirvana’s Nevermind sound, but by their fourth album, 2002’s Diorama, he had outgrown the limitations of grunge. It featured sweeping orchestration and complex compositions that were as far removed from Nirvana as King Crimson is from the Spice Girls.

In 2004, he released The Dissociatives, which is a wonderful blend of synthpop, progrock, and Beatlesque melodies. The first song, “We’re Much Preferred Customers”, marries absurdist lyrics – “welcome to planet pod/where insects sound like lasers/and men who wear abrasive hats/with eyeballs judge like juries/and skin that flakes like ancient paint/suffocate contentment/birds creep over tin roofs/like criminals with tap shoes” – to a dark melody that transforms into an irresistible pop confection that leaves the listener panting for more.

And more there is, as each song moves from one peak of pop/prog perfection (extra points for alliteration?) to the next. There are a couple of instrumentals that are impossible not to hum along with, and the whole thing closes with a gentle lullaby, “Sleep Well Tonight”. The big hit, in Johns’ Australia at least, is “Somewhere Down The Barrel”.  The official video for it is below. If your interest is piqued, trust me, you’ll love the entire album.

After The Dissociatives, Johns released another brilliant album with Silverchair, Young Modern. Recorded with Van Dyke Parks (who cowrote Smile with Brian Wilson), it is a masterpiece in its own right. But that’s a topic for another post!

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