Daniel Johns: Talk

Can the Silverchair frontman pull off a left turn into synthpop?

- Daniel Johns has been out of the music limelight since Silverchair went on hiatus eight years ago but returns now with his debut solo album, Talk. After such a long absence intrigue was certainly high, though perhaps he was saved from high expectations by virtue of the fact no one really knew what to expect. Earlier this year we had some indication with the release of a few singles and an EP but really it’s all been about waiting to see what Johns has come up with.

Talk will undoubtedly divide both fans and critics alike for a variety of reasons, some more rational than others. For long time fans of early Silverchair this synth pop record will be a bitter pill to swallow, although it hardly seems fair to insist that people only exist as the fifteen year old iteration of themselves; but even for those who are able to accept that ‘grungy’ Daniel Johns is gone for good, this album is not without its problems.

Presumably the Aerial Love EP released back in March was designed as a musical prelude for the main act, so it's not fair to say that the tone of this album is completely unexpected. The title track from the EP is actually the opener on the record, a soulful and slow ballad, which confirms everyone’s suspicions that the ethereal synths and crooning falsetto are here to stay. Preach is another track from the EP, stylistically Johns takes some pointers from the title, with big vocal choruses reminiscent of an actual hymn. Going On 16 layers manipulated vocals over a refined electro beat with just a hint of the old screeching guitars.

It’s really not possible to go any further in this review without mentioning two words that Johns is probably already sick of being associated with, they are of course, Chet Faker. The real problem with this record isn’t that it doesn’t sound like Silverchair, it’s that in the time Johns has been away some pretty big-hitting heavyweights have moved into the genre and moved the goal posts much further away. Sure Johns’ crooning vocals are clean and his falsetto layered over synths and some excellently produced beats are on point, but it’s all like a pale imitation when set against the raw power and innovative sound of an artist like Chet Faker.

In interviews Johns has said he doesn’t care if people like his album or not, certainly a good outlook to have as a musician generally, but one he hopefully sticks to. Ultimately Talks seems to both alienate his old fans, while not quite offering anything new or interesting enough to seriously be a contender for a new generation of fans.

- Clare Armstrong.

Album Details

Album Title: Talk
Artist: Daniel Johns
Record Label: (EMI)