Sometimes a simple song chorus can say a lot — such as “Straight Lines,” the new comeback single from Aussie power trio Silverchair, with the refrain, “Waking up strong in the morning/ Walking in a straight line/ Lately I’m a desperate believer.”
The chiming ballad, just released in the United States, is a huge homeland hit for the group, which comes to San Francisco’s Independent next week. So is the band’s chart-topping parent album “Young Modern.”
“With this record, it was very important for me to not bury what I wanted to say too deep in metaphorical mud,” singer-songwriter-guitarist Daniel Johns says. “So ‘Straight Lines’ is really literal, and most people that know anything about Silverchair will know what I’m talking about on that track.”
It’s the fact that, until recently, Johns considered a stroll across his living room to be a major daily achievement.
Silverchair burst onto the rock scene in 1995 with the Pearl-Jam-ish “Frogstomp,” recorded when the band members were all a long-haired 15. By the time Johns had blossomed into the tunesmith on 2002’s “Diorama,” his health had deteriorated. It started with an eating disorder, which escalated into reactive arthritis.
“I was really proud of ‘Diorama,’ and I just wanted to get on the road and give it a chance,” recalls Johns, 28. “But I woke up one morning and hada really sore knee and couldn’t walk on it, and I thought nothing of it. Then the next day, I woke up and my other knee was sore, as well. And it didn’t take very long to kick in … Pretty soon, I couldn’t move at all.”
Bedridden, with his group on indefinite hiatus, the frontman was wheelchaired into a Sydney hospital for 18 months and more than a dozen types of treatment. Nothing worked. But when his doctors suggested last-ditch chemotherapy drugs, Johns balked. At the insistence of his wife — pop star Natalie Imbruglia — he checked out, flew to Los Angeles and began seeing a holistic physician.
“I was laying in oxygen chambers constantly, taking between 80 and 120 pills a day, different herbs and enzymes,” he recalls of his months in California. “Then came the physical training, a dietitian and all this other weird stuff. But it really worked.”
Meanwhile, Johns is hoping America hasn’t forgotten Silverchair, even though he himself almost did. But reuniting for Sydney’s Wave Aid tsunami-relief concert in 2005 for 48,000 fans jogged his memory.
“We got asked to do that benefit, and we really wanted to help,” he says. “Until we got together again, I think we all took for granted how much we enjoyed playing together and just how special that is.”
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 771-1422 or www.theindependentsf.com