We one & all must first propose it as problematic to utter these three lines ‘I’m not to sure / How I’m supposed to feel / Or what I’m supposed to say’. Especially right at the start of a song. To this the querulous punter might respond in an offhand manner ‘Say anything but that!’ Stopping listening then seems a reasonable option to said punter. Sure it goes toward something greater. Daniel Johns is, or once was, depressed; he wants us to get that. He’s simply ‘not too sure how it feels / to handle every day’. He craves normalcy. Here’s a boy that became a star in high-school and then couldn’t walk down the street anymore. We remember countless interviews where he would whinge – in his as-yet unworldly aus accent – about still having to go to school in Newcastle after his band made it big. Local heavies would follow him, pick him up & throw him in their van, call him a faggot & other eccentric tags & then beat the crap out of him. A pretty up & down existence that possibly encouraged a certain lack of emotional certainty. Big shot millionaires on the one hand; petty ‘emotional’ teenagers on the other. What to do? Throw it all away? Or write realistic songs about your peculiar sort of mental sickness perhaps, even keep doing it well into adulthood.
& yet despite the superficial lyrics, ‘Miss You Love’ does have its redeeming qualities. The building of levels via the arrangement of instruments creates relative flux. The first verse features guitar / piano / vocals, & it stays this way through to a pre-chorus. Then the drums come in to add a second level. Then – though it’s a slight change – we notice the affecting quality of a constant beat on the open hi-hat. This regular aggression creates the chorus. There’s a melody etched out on distorted guitar, then the song proper comes back with this heavier guitar underpinning it, then, for a final additional level, we hear the staccato distortion of ‘the teenage angst brigade section’. After that the song recapitulates on the earlier sections to head toward en ending. There is a lot of uncertain ascending here, not quite an emotional rollercoaster, but maybe just one part of the trip, the steep ride up the slope and then a plateau of choral ‘miss you love’. The plateau of a drugged normalcy.
We need to wonder though at just how much pretence is going on. How much does the poetic line here work to encourage the teenage angst, the indecision and otherness, in conjunction with the instrumentation? Because as you might interpret, there are the characteristics of a set pose. & it’s a pose Johns doesn’t even believe in. It’s a kind of ‘How to win fans & influence social misfits’ stance. In the video clip (yes, as we saw in the Chisel analysis, it makes just as much sense to analyse a song in conjunction with the cultural product attached to it, regardless of who had a directorial role in such product (or at least it makes sense to argue this position while embarking on the course)) all we see is the band entering a movie theatre, & then a large crowd watching a movie. It’s a love story, we suppose, & the audience all perhaps miss the sensation that the movie presents in a nicely packaged form. Is it the fault of the movie though, for doing such a thing? The idea of ‘love’ as presented by a movie (or a song for that matter) is hardly ever going to appear as complex and various as the real thing. So when Johns laments that he misses love, it might be more correct to assume that he has been fed the wrong ideas. If it is just a fad, something he’ll move through (he has implied such a thing in other interviews) why does he play into it so exactly. Look at his slouch and gaze coming out over downcast eye-sockets; even his folded arms. This is teen-angst boy, raging against being teen-angst boy. A slight surge of anger during the angst-brigade lyric, but then back comes the sadness of spiritual isolation. The self-knowledge of the predicament is slightly hollow.
I love the way you adore product. The way you attach your fleeting self to a song, to a movie, because, it’s so wickedly romantic. But no actor can deal with being expected to return the adoration. ‘Yo: I love you Newcastle! This songs for you!’
Therefore (but not in this light) we must admit that by writing nimbly about your times & interests you attach yourself to those very times & strange mendicant proclivities of the personality. You effectively alienate yourself from others. It’s an example that relies on antithesis: in this track Johns writes about nothing but his own sense of alterity – there’s no specifics here other than what we can intuit biographically (quite reliably though of course…) & / or by making some speculative leaps (love = the idea of love). & this is how Johns forges links between himself & the generically uninspired teens of his time. & also how we mark out exact lines between ourselves & our poetic-internet contemporaries, by writing something about a band such as Silverchair, which is very specific, as any band with a name will tend to be.
God how we hate our predicament. We do it so collectively to boot. We just want to understand how to handle things as one amongst many, like a day ‘that just passed / through the crowds of all the people’, like sands through the hourglass – don’t you? But we can’t. We hate ourselves before coming to realise we’re not really that abstract figure on the bigscreen. As high-school English teachers would say (but prefixed with ‘Do not end your composition with:’) it was all a dream.
& so it comes to pass – you will no doubt have now come to this faux-conclusion yourself – that the diction of pain is not understandable unless rendered in song form, unless made real with a combination of line-endings (never breaks) & tonal rollercoastering. Getting yourself a band will help to un-generificate (sic, fully sic) yourself, even if you can’t write very well. It’s why this song is pleasant & sad to listen too; it’s also why no-one will understand us in making such a specific statement of intent: because they are all so strange to me & I don’t understand them. They all seem to cope with things with such ease, as if this were just some formulaic romantic comedy.