Friday, November 27, 2009

a Golden Rule for Powderfinger

''If you had your time over again, would you do it all the same, down
through all the twists and bends...'' - Powderfinger: 'Sail the Wildest Stretch' from the new album Golden Rule

Powderfinger have been at my side since around 1998. Initially it was involuntarily that their music was on my radar. Internationalist came out that year, but I wouldn't discover the entire album until 2003. The Day You Come was a favourite with the then ubiquitous Triple J albums.

But what's not to love about these Aussie rockers? Named after Neil Young's famous tune Powderfinger. Poignant lyricists. Modern rock'n'rollers. They are unfailingly passionate about music and dedicated patriots of Australia. Policitical when politics needs a shake up, dedicated to causes that support humanity: "musicians have a guilty conscience in general about their lives being quite good and tend to be aware of social issues" (Bernard Fanning, Nov. 07).

These blokes have integrity. Having been at the centre of a few racial outbursts (the Black Tears we hear on Dream Days at The Hotel Existence is not the Black Tears that Fanning et al penned for original studio sessions...apparently a bit too political for the record label), from what I have read and heard over last decade, Powderfinger tend to be fairly level headed when it comes to defending their stance on politics, and in particular indigenous issues in Australia. But that's for another post...

I suppose what I adore about Powderfinger really does come back to the music. They clutch onto the blues, (particularly with Since You've Been Gone which Fanning wrote for his brother) singing with a voice that captures heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. There is conviction in songs like Who Really Cares (featuring The Sound of Insanity), Love Your Way and Up and Down and Back Again. Waiting for the Sun, the opening track to the album Odyssey Number Five (2005) and Vulture Street's 2003 single On My Mind make rock'n'roll accessible to those who enter the realm with caution. Powderfinger, when I first 'discovered' them, was almost too 'heavy' for me. This was clearly before I stopped listening to the radio and ventured into the depth of grunge and dabbled in the tastes of my older cousins and friends back home.

When it was announced the lads were playing at the Big Day Out, I a) presumed an album was about to be released ('shib!' I screeched) and b) made the call to attend my first (and no doubt last) Big Day Out in 2010.

Golden Rule is...interesting. The opening track El Camino De La Muerta reminds me not of Powderfinger but of Ray La Montagne's Meg White before turning into some sort of instrumental 30 seconds of Tourism Australia music. At 42 seconds we are then launched into classic Powderfinger- Bernard coming in a few bars after that distinct sound the lads have developed with basic electric guitar and brassy drums. They have these rather confronting lyrics that still have room for compassion. A Fight About Money at the moment disappoints me. It's reminiscent of late model Snow Patrol and that hideous Save the City blah blah blah rubbish. Sail the Wildest Stretch though returns to the ballad-that-builds-to-a-peak that the guys do so well, while closing title track Golden Rule seems to have drawn inspiration from Pink Floyd. Bernard maintains a slight monotone in parts that reminds me of the Time's 'quiet desperation is the English way', and Poison in Your Mind harks back to the hiatus driven solo album of Fanning's (Tea and Sympathy)...a really pretty sub 3 minute track that you can't help but repeat 3 times over easily! Think it Over has a feature in music that sucks me in every time- a choir of sorts coming in half through the track. There is nothing so uplifting as a chorus of voices to lead you in to a little guitar solo. In this case there's a cute little marching drum beat as well, and the whole end of the song is quite an experience!
All in all, I guess Golden Rule is well timed for summer with its release. I'm not sure it's the best effort from the best band of our time, but blind partiality is probably a vice of mine at times, and Odyssey Number 5 changed my life, as did Tea & Sympathy. Well, that's an outrageous claim, but it is these two albums that are dearest to my heart.
I'll let you guys discover the rest of the album in peace!
Until next time,

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