Many songs are simply bird-flipping displays to the outside world, as on the moody track "Freak," in which Johns croons, "If only I could be as cool as you" in a waning Vedderesque voice. "That's just about being different, growing up," he notes. That sarcasm, sliced with a little self-doubt, also lifts "Abuse Me." Here Johns is a somber Kurt C. as he pleads, "C'mon, abuse me more, I like it," an analysis of the relationship between rock star and fan. Elsewhere the minor-key ballad "Cemetery" is powered by a Smashing Pumpkins-like string arrangement. (Johns has been performing this song on tour as an acoustic solo.) And you can practically smell the incense (or is that an Indian water pipe?) on "Chlorine & Petrol," with its use of sitar and tabla.
Clearly these boys are growing up, blending riffs from Zeppelin, Helmet, and Tool with grandiose orchestration loaded with timpani and violins. And these guys know how to make some lively, piss-and-vinegar rock and roll. The problem at times is in the lyrics -- bitter and indulgent to a fault, almost a cartoon of angst that's beyond the experiences of these wee tots. With any luck, though, Johns will outgrow his pouting concerns.
Tourwise, Johns says that he and the guys have enjoyed playing live above everything else during their extensive roadwork over the last two and a half years. (They recently played a surprise gig in Los Angeles billed as the George Costanza Trio.) Of course, touring has its drawbacks -- they have to travel with a tutor ("He's a good mate, actually," Johns remarks) until they finish high school. Plus, their dads are along for the ride, ostensibly to keep them out of trouble. When Johns is jokingly asked about the sex life of a very young rock star, he cracks, "We pretty much get ten to fifteen chicks a night each. Just bring them on the tour bus and have sex with all of them." As for the other recreational indulgences of the pop world: "Yeah, we can [smoke pot]. But it kind of gets in the way when you're touring with your dads. They don't give a shit if we drink, but I think it would get a bit weird if we started rolling joints in front of them."
Silverchair performs Sunday, May 4, at the Theater, 3339 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale; 954-565-1117. Opening acts are Local H and Automatic. The sold-out show starts at 8:00 p.m.