The British Weezer, Britpop’s Buddy Holly, the B-movie Beach Boys – however you wanted to tag them, Silver Sun were one of the brightest talents of the late 1990s. Combining blinding power pop guitars, gleaming multi-part harmonies and all the best shake-shack jukebox tunes that the greats of 1950s rock’n’roll forgot to write – all wrapped up in classic monster movie artwork – they delivered one of the greatest albums of the decade in their self-titled 1997 debut, hit the Top 40 four times and raced straight into geek rock cult legend in a top-down Thunderbird.
When word filtered through the wires a few weeks ago that singer James Broad had lost his battle against bowel cancer it was the first time the band had ever, in this writer’s mind, inspired anything but utter joy. Over six Silver Sun albums, recorded either solo or with his bandmates, James never released a bad song and every single show was a jubilant event, whether at their late-’90s peak, their final shows in 2017 or at private reunions over the years – at band members’ weddings or this writer’s 30th birthday.
For long-term fans, it’s heartbreaking that the exhilaration of Silver Sun live is now unrepeatable; for those only now discovering the band, here’s where to start catching up. Because there will never be another James Broad.
‘Golden Skin’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Frankly, every single track on Silver Sun’s damn near faultless debut album deserves listing here. But, thanks to a surgical dynamic marriage of celestial harmony and flamethrower riff, its opening portrait of celebrity obsession ‘Golden Skin’ still manages to stand out as one of the finest and most ferocious guitar pop singles of the late-‘90s.
‘There Will Never Be Another Me’ (from ‘Sun..! EP’, 1996)
Before Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich got hold of their debut album, Silver Sun were a far more punk affair, as evinced by the speaker-scouring lead track from their first EP, released when the band were still briefly called simply Sun. If Eddie Cochran had ever trashed a stage in an egotistical fit, it would’ve sounded like this.
‘I’ll See You Around’ (from ‘Neo Wave’, 1998)
Second album ‘Neo Wave’ played heavily on the band’s likeness to US power rock stalwarts Cheap Trick, but from amongst the grungier rock’n’roll guitars sprang fantastic handclap-retro rock crackers like this Top 30 hit.
‘Lies’ (from ‘Disappear Here’, 2005)
Seven years after their second album, James self-recorded a third Silver Sun album, playing everything himself. Amazingly, not a drop of power pop majesty was spilt in the process; the trajectory of the chorus to ‘Lies’ was every bit as stratospheric as their early classics.
‘Far Out’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
The debut album really came into its own when it spat out its bubblegum, slapped its heart on the monitor and roared out retro romance epics with choruses that punched clean through your chest cavity. This ode of adoration to “the greatest girl in space and time” was an early warning that Silver Sun had heft to match the harmonics.
‘Yellow Light’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Take ‘Far Out’, double it and whack on a monstrously great stop-start chorus and you had ‘Yellow Light’, proof that Silver Sun were part of a top secret CIA experiment to develop a weapon capable of making humans explode with multi-part harmonies alone.
‘Hi Scorpia’ (from ‘Dad’s Weird Dream’, 2006)
One year after ‘Disappear Here’, the full band reunited in the studio for a fourth album that stands as their under-appreciated ‘Pinkerton’ thanks to rocket fuelled tunes like ‘Hi Scorpia’, a song lifted by its chorus harmonies like a choir of harpies.
‘Lava’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Arguably the band’s most famous song, and definitely the most upbeat hit ever to feature the baby Jesus being fed bull’s blood, ‘Lava’ erupted out of its serene intro with bursts of maniacal falsetto, en route to a chorus resembling a drag race around a drive-in.
‘Mustard’ (from ‘Neo Wave’, 1998)
When the more trad-rock second album got it right, it got it very right – witness ‘There Goes Summer’, ‘Scared’, ‘I’ll See You Around’ and this ponderous powerchord beast about giving up wizardry for rock’n’roll. “Don’t try this at home, kids,” Broad warns, with a beam.
‘Animals Feet’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Silver Sun had a neat line in balladry too – see also ‘Patients’ from ‘Neo Wave’ – but the piano-led ‘Animals Feet’ was one of the most magical of the decade, nodding to Ben Folds and drenched in traffic noise and wistful barbershop vocals as if designed to evoke a melancholy New York state of mind. About animals stamping on drugs. Still deeply moving.
‘The Pain Don’t Come So Easy’ (from ‘A Lick And A Promise’, 2013)
In 2013, Broad compiled tracks recorded as early as 2002, plus new songs, into a fifth Silver Sun album ‘A Lick And A Promise’, including this savage and dynamic one-off release from 2009 that was perhaps the most Weezer the band ever got.
‘Last Day’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Silver Sun’s bread and butter was glistening two-and-a-half-minute wallops of retro speedway power pop, and ‘Last Day’ was the daddy. As punchy and perfect as ‘90s guitar pop got.
‘Bubblegum’ (from ‘Disappear Here’, 2005)
As if staying in tune with the new rock revolution of the ‘00s, the 2004 comeback single emphasised the glam rock charge inherent in Silver Sun’s music to powerful effect.
‘Julia’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
Another of the debut album’s many charms was its ability to wind contemporary modes around its melodic finger. Cue the gorgeous ‘Julia’ – what it would’ve sounded like if The Beach Boys had invented Britpop in 1962.
‘See Me In My Dreams’ (from ‘Dad’s Weird Dream’, 2006)
On later records the band experimented with electronica and psychedelia, and even managed to slot a little ska into this mid-‘00s deep cut. Between celestial choruses, naturally.
‘Photograph’ (from ‘Switzerland’, 2020)
Once again working solo, James released the sixth and final Silver Sun album – the grunge-indebted ‘Switzerland’ – earlier this year, proving his melodic powers remained undimmed with lustrous moments like ‘Photograph’.
‘Nobody’ (from ‘Silver Sun’, 1997)
The debut album’s climactic showstopper, a late-Britpop masterpiece to rival the best of Super Furry Animals and the sound of the Rapture arriving mid-prom.