Here we go again. Having sold nearly 2 million copies of their '95 debut, Frogstomp, in the U.S. alone, this Aussie teen threesome is grappling with fame. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and others have taken us down this road before, but it's unsettling to hear a 17-year-old (singer-guitarist Daniel Johns) moaning "C'mon abuse me more I like it" to his band's detractors. If such sarcasm sounds familiar, so will the bulldozer percussion and chain-saw guitars that threaten to overwhelm "Freak" and "No Association." Still, for such grunge-oriented music, Freak Show is surprisingly polished, with razor-sharp melodies, sturdy hooks and moments of poignant beauty (violins that actually seem to weep on "Cemetery").
For all of Silverchair's musical proficiency, Johns's wispy vocals lack emotional resonance. His tortured lyrics suggest he's teetering on the brink of hysteria, but he sounds less disturbed than mildly annoyed. (Epic)