June 18, 2015 Daniel Johns – Talk (Album Review)
Daniel Johns has been synonymous with Rock band Silverchair since the young age of thirteen when he began the band with Ben Gillies in 1992. Initially begun as The Innocent Criminals a year earlier, after practicing daily, the guys made a demo of “Tomorrow,” a song they submitted to competition, and subsequently won. By then, they renamed the group Silverchair, and got a three-record deal with Sony Music in 1994, which fast-tracked 1995’s Frogstomp when “Tomorrow” had a six week run at # 1 on the Australian Singles charts. Next, they followed with 1996’s Freak Show, 1999’s Neon Ballroom, and 2002’s Diorama, all to critical acclaim. A hiatus followed Diarama in which Johns joined musician/producer Paul Mac, who Johns met in 1997, as The Dissociatives. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rock (2000), a five-track EP, was their first solo collaboration, and was followed by a tour that had Kim Moyes on drums, Julian Hamilton on keys, (the electronica group The Presets) and James Haselwood on bass. Young Modern (2005) reunited Johns and Silverchair and the “Across the Great Divide” tour with Powderfinger followed, thus exciting fans of the band once more.
As of May 2011, Silverchair went on an “indefinite hiatus,” but John would remain very active in a variety of projects. In 2013 at Australia Adelaide Festival, he fronted Van Dyke Parks, and this is where the first rumblings of a solo album began to pick up. Finally, in 2015, fans were treated to a four-track EP entitled Aerial Love in March to whet appetites for the May release of his solo debut full-length, Talk, via Australian label Eleven.
Talk, collaborated with a diverse mix of producers, is a 15-track smorgasbord of urban beats, R&B, Electronica, and Johns’ sexy, smooth deliveries. It kicks off with a track Johns did with producer/co-writer Joel Little; “Aerial Love” has an airy, smooth beat with a light Funk flavor. Johns has a sexy urgency as he sings of the high of his love, “I can’t think of a time we didn’t love each other.” Next is the song “We are Golden,” mixed by writer/producer Louis School, continuing with the smooth flow, but with a light Electronica flavor musically and vocally reminiscent of late ’70s, early ’80s Funk. “By Your Side,” mixed by Presets frontman Hamilton, thumps in with a tight drum line intro followed by Johns’ soulful voice sliding in, accompanied by piano, containing lyrics that the perfect company is with the one you live; “Everywhere you go/I’m by your side.”
“Preach” continues to feature pianos, but with marked darker tone from the first line; “I don’t even care if it’s too late for this,” complete with a thudding drum line and searing synth riff. Another track mixed by writer/producer School is “Too Many,” and it carries on the dark themed electronic tinged R&B with John’s voice taking on a deeper, serious tone; “because, for real I think we think too much.” Lead single released back in January, “Cool on Fire,” is another cut mixed by producer/co-writer Little and features a funky modernized Disco vibe with a side of Dance Club Electronica thrown in as Johns’ vocals take on a futuristic tone; “’Cause, together, nothing matters/Cool on fire.” “Imagination,” made by local Hip Hop icons Styalz and M-Phazes, takes the listener to an urban beat in this Harlem-like, sitting on the brownstone steps, soul piece, “Just keep on keepin’ on/just keep on pushin’ on forward.”
“Dissolve,” the other track on the album mixed by Hamilton, has an ’80s Pop-ish vibe rife with keyboards and synths as Johns sings about the dissolution of a relationship; “We are here/with open arms/dissolve/while it’s easy.” Another track created by Styalz and M-Phazes is “Chained,” a lush melody of airiness juxtaposed to Johns’ lyrics of a stifling relationship, “I can’t fly when we’re chained to one another.” “Sleepwalker” has a dreamy air that pervades the track with a psychedelically futuristic mix, continued with Johns’ voice through, “I’ve been sleepwalking/I’ve been sleep talking/I really believe it’s true/I’m willing to believe it’s something/I just wanna comfort you.” “Faithless,” the final track born from Styalz and M-Phazes, is a head-bopping, Pop-esque track with an ’80s feel. Again, the upbeat melody belies the darker lyrics of losing oneself because of another, “Tainted/I’m wasted on you.”
“Warm Hands,” the third piece off Talk mixed by Little, is an organ-laced tune with a laid back bass beat. Johns’ sensual vocals ooze sexuality, “I don’t want to have to wait for the words to get off my tongue.” Keeping the album interesting, School is called on to mix “Going on 16,” which is a fashion forward funky tune of synths. The way Johns sings here, his accent comes through while he sings of being taught by an older lover, “I saw you lookin’/you stole my eye.” “New York,” the last on the album mixed by School, plays like a Broadway number about being dissed by a would-be lover in NYC…and still wanting, “New York, New York, been waiting for hours.” “Good Luck” is a noir-ish, Funk piece, again with Electronica zest mixed in. Johns’ falsetto voice plays against the darker melody, “Good luck, we’ve found.”
Talk is an exceptionally fun, yet confessional, and varied album; a mature change of pace from the gifted, well-seasoned artist in Daniel Johns. If Talk is any indication of Johns’ future solo offerings, his post-Silverchair career looks extremely bright. CrypticRock gives Talk 5 of 5 stars.