Who Won: Silverchair Vs. Powderfinger?

WHO WON is a column in which Max Lavergne takes two things which are similar, by design or coincidence, and analyses them for signs that they won.


The ’90s, man! What a decade! The foundations of future economic disaster were being laid, politicians were adultering, successfully, somehow (and what is even with THAT) and Tom Cruise was considered a serious actor. Crazy! And also, in so many ways, exactly the same as the ’80s. But there was one key difference: earnest Australian dudes who weren’t from Sydney or Melbourne were making guitar music!*

In the 1990s, two of Australia’s most something something regional capitals, Newcastle and Brisbane**, were responsible for producing two seminal etc. rock bands whose records would define the nation’s dominant musical paradigm for zzzzzzzzzz. Excuse me! I hope you appreciate those rock journalism signifiers. I used them to communicate the fact that Silverchair and Powderfinger were, and are, I guess, if you want to be a pedant about it, a big fucking deal to a lot of people who enjoy rock music with a male vocal! Even if you’re not one of those people, I think you could probably just agree with me on that. Powderfinger = big deal. Silverchair = big deal. Not controversial statements! But anyway the question right now is WHO WON, so let’s talk about that!

In some ways, Powderfinger and Silverchair are equals. Both have names comprised of two unrelated words joined together with no space in the middle. Both ended their careers with gross vomit albums that no one liked. Actually, in a lot of ways, these two bands are very, very similar, which makes this WHO WON extra difficult!

Firstly: early work that it’s still acceptable to admit liking. Maybe Powderfinger and Silverchair are not your favourite bands, you elitist jerk. But there was probably one time you liked Powderfinger or Silverchair or both: maybe you were in high school. Or university. (It doesn’t matter where you were.) The point is that before Bernard Fanning and Daniel Johns were loldads there was a sweet spot of music output that it is still acceptable if not encouraged to admit liking! Like this: “Uh, sure, I guess “The Day You Come” was a pretty good song.” Like that. “Maybe there were a couple of other good ones on Internationalist.” Of course, everything from Odyssey Number 5 onwards is a big, fat write-off and who can even remember what happened before, so let’s say Powderfinger get two points! Two points, Powderfinger! On the other hand: Silverchair. In the early years, Daniel Johns “grunge voice” is loads of fun to imitate when you’re singing along in the car so BOOM two points right there. And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve made an “Anthem For The Year 2000” joke I guess maybe I would have a few dollars? (sorry if that’s not specific enough. I guess you’re not reading a column from a mind that could be so sure? BOOM!) So let’s say four points. WINNER: SILVERCHAIR.

Secondly: total albums sold. This column is about winning, and what says winning more than dolla dolla bills, y’all? (“Charlie Sheen three months ago” – a valid answer.) So let’s break this down with some SCIENCE! Over seven albums, Powderfinger sold in excess of 1.89 million units, which at a rate of $20 per album works out at $5.4 million in revenue per release. Very nice, Mr Powderfinger! By comparison, Silverchair only sold a paltry 1.61 million units of their five albums. Excuse me: they only sold that many IN AUSTRALIA. They also sold 3 million in the US and a combined total of 765,000 in New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Brazil, which at rate of 20 Australian dollars per album (my scientific method is falling apart here) works out at $21.5 million per album. WINNER: SILVERCHAIR.

Finally, how fucking shit both are circa 2k11. Let’s be clear: we’re not talking about whether or not Powderfinger and Silverchair are shit in 2k11. Of course they are! Golden Rule LOL. Young Modern LOL. What are those garbage titles all about? Those are album titles that sound like old dads who don’t give a shit anymore trying to come up with something intriguing/poignant. “Let’s call it Golden Rule because of that saying about golden rules, I guess.” “What saying?” “Go clean your room.” – legitimate actual conversation between Bernard Fanning and Jon Coghill. “What are we not anymore?” “Young.” “Modern.” – almost definitely what went down in the Silverchair rehearsal room. Obviously there is more to this than just terrible album titles, but it’s pretty hard to pick a winner in terms of the music, since both of those albums were just uninspired collections of featureless pop rock. But we can talk about the ways in which Powderfinger and Silverchair chose to end their careers! Powderfinger, who are famous for being “good blokes”, broke up right after they released an album in the most obvious cash grab since Star Wars was released on Blu-Ray, whereas Silverchair dragged their shit our for like four years before announcing they were done, which to ME hints at real loathing between band members. And real loathing is so much more legit! WINNER: SILVERCHAIR.

In conclusion, these dudes all got paid a heap of money for much longer than they were any good, but since Silverchair won six points as opposed to Powderfinger’s two within the specified criteria, I guess that means they won.

*Maybe not a key difference, I guess. Maybe just a difference relevant to the set-up of this column. Maybe not even a difference because I haven’t done all that much research!


Words By Max Lavergne