Saturday, March 26, 2011

Powderfinger's Best Bet

I get a bit nervous when I listen to too much of one thing.  If I am listening to a lot of accessible pop music, I feel unchallenged.  On the other hand, if I am listening to experimental music exclusively, I start to feel a little socially isolated.  Since the beginning of this year, I have been drawn into a lot of challenging instrumental music, and recently I started to “miss” my more accessible interests.  As a remedy, I began spinning the Metric CD as the beginning of this month and recently, I got a hold of Powderfinger’s Dream Days at the Hotel Existence.  Unfortunately, from my perspective a lot of it seems uninspired, although the band’s best work does shine through periodically, like this one:

With this album, I think that the interested should look at individual tracks.  I still like Powderfinger’s work, however, and although I have a rather meager collection of their albums and am hardly qualified as an expert, I would like to pass on what little I know.

Despite being visible in Austrialia, Powderfinger remained relatively unknown in the US during their career.  I don’t remember specifically when or where I first heard of them myself, but I believe their album Internationalist came up as a suggestion once while I was browsing on Amazon and I put it on my wish list, where it sat for a quite a long time.  When I decided to finally take the plunge, however, I ordered Odyssey Number Five due to positive customer reviews.   It eventually evolved into a favorite, and one that I periodically return to.  Powderfinger had several songs pop up in movie and TV soundtracks in the 00s, which is as high-profile as an Aussie band can get without actually getting major distribution in the states.

Although Powderfinger is a widely accessible project, I struggle to draw close comparisons.  They share a rugged earthiness with Neil Young, their most obvious influence, as well as an intimate lyric sensitivity, thanks to lead singer Bernard Fanning.  Despite their obvious classic rock leanings, in the 00s Powderfinger presented themselves in a style that was classic and contemporary, similar to Oasis’ refabrication of the Beatles sound in the 90s. 

What the band does exceedingly well is write highly singable choruses, surrounding them with supporting verses and anthemic connective tissue.  In manipulating these components, they often alter traditional popular song form and when they get it right, it really hits.  Odyssey Number Five turned out to be such a convincing album that I eventually got Internationalist as well.  Although it did not strike me quite as efffectively for me as its successor, I still find it to be a good listen.

Many of Powderfinger’s fans are dedicated, and there are few albums of theirs that do not have both enthusiastically positive and derisively negative reviews.  From what little I have heard, though, I would suggest Odyssey Number Five to those with even a passing interest. 

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