Powderfinger

TrackAlbum
Pick You UpDouble Allergic
The Day You ComeInternationalist
Waiting For The SunOdyssey Number Five
My HappinessOdyssey Number Five
The MetreOdyssey Number Five
(Baby I've Got You) On My MindVulture Street
SunsetsVulture Street
Lost And RunningDream Days At The Hotel Existence
All Of The DreamersGolden Rule
Burn Your NameGolden Rule

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Powderfinger photo 2

Powderfinger (l to r): John Collins (bass), Bernard Fanning (vocals, guitar), Ian Haug (guitar), Jon Coghill (drums), Darren Middleton (guitar, keyboards)

 

Contributor: Richard Warran

Australia has always had a knack of producing great in-your-face straight-talking rock music. Think AC/DC, INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil to name but four. Added to the list of great Aussie rock should be – and were, at least in Australia anyway – Powderfinger.

It was on another trip I made to Australia back in the early 2000s that I first came across them. If you listened to any rock radio station at that time then you couldn’t fail to hear them coming out of the airwaves. They had just released their fourth and probably best known album, Odyssey Number Five, to great critical acclaim. Songs like Waiting For The Sun, My Happiness and The Metre, all in my top 10, got me hooked instantly. Always a fan of great melody, catchy guitar riffs and singalong lyrics, well these songs had all of this and more, and my love of Powderfinger had started.

Formed in Brisbane in 1989, and named after a Neil Young song, they released their debut album, Parables For Wooden Ears, in 1994. Nothing off this album would make my top 10 and I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t cause too many ripples in the Australian rock music lake.

They had to wait until Double Allergic was released in 1996 to start receiving much more positive noises from the media. It was the time of many new rising indie Oz acts. Bands like Silverchair and You Am I were getting a lot of international attention which perhaps helped Powderfinger on their way to eventually become one of the most respected and loved rock acts in the country. Their first single from Double Allergic, Pick You Up, cracked the Australian charts and started their massive success that lasted until they split in 2010.

The third album, Internationalist, was released in September 1998 to great critical acclaim reaching No.1 in Australia and spending over 100 weeks in the chart. The Day You Come, the first single from the album, gave the band their biggest chart hit to date. Still a big fish in a small pond, the band were making minor waves in the USA but didn’t really make a dent in Europe.

Odyssey Number Five, the album that got me into the band, was released in autumn 2000 and is still their biggest selling album, shifting well over half a million copies. This is where I jumped on the Powderfinger bus. Always looking for new music when travelling, this was a band I kept hearing when watching music TV or listening to iconic radio station Triple J. I remember buying the CD somewhere in Australia but not being able to hear it, as my only form of music listening on my travels was my Walkman.

Powderfinger started to tour abroad by this time and I managed to see them live in the UK on a few occasions, usually at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a home from home for bands touring from Australia and New Zealand. They always attracted a large and lively crowd, mainly Aussies living in the UK and always delivered an excellent live set. Bernard Fanning is a great front man and always seemed to me to have a touch of Michael Hutchence about him.

Vulture Street, the band’s fifth album, came out in early summer 2003 and again went straight to No.1 in the album charts, their third #1 in Australia. A harder sounding record than previous releases, it still had its fair share of anthemic tunes on it. (Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind and Sunsets, both from Vulture Street, also make it into my top 10. Quite soon after, a great compilation, Footprints, was released containing most of their hits to date.

Dream Days At The Hotel Existence was released in 2007, a fair gap after their previous album. Bernand Fanning released his first solo album, Tea & Sympathy, in that hiatus and while the other band members were involved in their own projects. Dream Days didn’t sell as well as earlier albums and perhaps the band could sense their best days were behind them. Lost And Running, the lead single from this album, does make my top 10 though.

Golden Rule, the last album from Powderfinger, was released in 2009. All Of The Dreamers and Burn Your Name are going in. Golden Rule still managed to get to No.1 in Australia but the band decided to call it a day, playing their final show in their hometown of Brisbane in November 2010 in front of 10,000 adoring fans. They finished the show with These Days, one of their finest songs.

Since then Bernard Fanning has released more solo albums including Departures (2013), another No.1 record. Ian Haug, the band’s guitarist, has played with The Church. Darren Middleton relocated to Melbourne and is still making music and releasing albums. Jon Coghill is now a reporter and John Collins is the owner of The Triffid music venue in Brisbane.

Powderfinger will always be remembered as one of the finest Australian rock bands of the last twenty years and, although not so well known outside their own country, will always be one of my favourite rock bands. Go check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

 
Powderfinger official website

Powderfinger (Wikipedia)

Powderfinger at Discogs

Bernard Fanning official website

Powderfinger biography (iTunes)

Richard Warran lives in Haywards Heath, famed for being a rather dull but close to Brighton and London commuter town. He has a passion for music and travel sometimes combining the two and can often be found at gigs in the above two cities. Find him on Twitter @rickwarran1.

Read the Toppermosts of the other Australian band mentioned in this post:
AC/DC, INXS, Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil

TopperPost #649

2 Comments

  1. Glenn Smith
    Aug 21, 2017

    Apparently they have a standard line in which they both thank and say sorry to anyone who bought their first album!
    The thing that marks out all the great Australian bands (Hunters and Collectors and The Angels would be two I’d add to your magnificent four) is that they always stayed on the road and developed their sound and songwriting touring. It’s a bit of cliche I know but it is absolutely true, they all got out there endlessly playing pubs, clubs, beer barns and, most importantly, country towns. Powderfinger exploded about 1997 and they were everywhere playing great gigs, they were fixtures at the festivals during the period where the Gurge and You Am I, Spiderbait, Something for Kate, Jebediah et al were setting high standards for live music. Powderfinger could match them all.
    So here is my first quibble with your otherwise superb list and that’s only one entry from Internationalist. That was the record that moved me into the Powderfinger corner, and I’d think Passenger and Already Gone are worthy of inclusion as is Hindley St, a great opening track.
    And then These Days, which I think was originally from the soundtrack to Two Hands. That song is a powerhouse live, it is an amazing experience to hear it build and build. It’s up there in the INXS anthemic show stopper category.
    I really enjoyed this post, great overview of a great band.

  2. David Lewis
    Aug 21, 2017

    I must agree with Glenn, and maybe just expand a little. The great Australian bands (in fact nearly all of them – the great, the good, the ok and the oh dears) started in a pub culture (and many lesser ones too). In fact, till you’ve played a pub, or a club, with an audience more interested in the sport on the big screen behind you, but who somehow KNOW when you adjust their favourite song, and who remonstrate with you. Peter Garrett describes (and we’ve all been there) calls to ‘turn down, we’re watching the footy’, and a fight breaking out and the two participants getting closer and closer to thousands of dollars worth of equipment… Going to an American pub, or an English pub (as tough as they can be), is a delight in comparison.
    Powderfinger won over tough crowds (as did all of them) and entered the consciousness. I don’t have any ‘wot! No?’s but would suggest Bernard Fanning’s first solo album as a superb example of how an artist can grow.

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