Review Summary: The 'finger deliver with this fifth studio effort. Without changing too drastically, they've provided a change in style but a sound still familiar to long-time fans.
When providing a follow-up to a commercially and critically successful record, a band meets a fork in the road. Do they take a path of reproduction, and merely create an imitation of what was so profitable before? Or is it a task of evolution? When a band proudly states that they’re “changing their sound” for the next LP, most critics moan with boredom. They’ve heard it all before. And if it is indeed a change in pace as promised, it is usually far too much for a commercial audience to bear, and so suffers the fate of a lead balloon – straight to bottom of the charts. Powderfinger’s Vulture Street
is a clear exception to both of these circumstances.
It’s fair to say that this much-loved rock band from Brisbane have always managed to keep the attention of both the commercial crowd and the more alternative music lovers over the last decade, which is all the more admirable considering their willingness to change musical directions so often. Grunge, Alternative, Indie, Pop-Rock and even sprinkles of Metal on earlier efforts are some of the genres they touched upon, up until this 2003 release. With Vulture Street
-style Powderfinger, rock ’n’ roll is the order of the day. Unrelenting, stylistic and unashamedly oldschool – it’s the kind of sound acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones made famous years ago, and which still reverberates today.
Fans of the more atmospheric Odyssey Number Five
have no need to feel neglected however. This is still the same Powderfinger that brought you Waiting for the Sun
, there’s just a bit more fun to be had this time around. Fanning’s vocals are even more refined – particularly in heart-felt epic Love Your Way
– and also provide a fair bit of mongrel in the more rock-fueled moments such as the brazenly intense Stumblin’
and killer first single (Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind
. The guitar is also kicked up a notch, and plays a much larger part in the proceedings.
Opening track Rockin’ Rocks
for instance, opens with all guns a’ blazing. A simple riff is turned up to eleven, with a second guitar providing even more excitement over the top. With a head-banging chorus, and a running time of around three minutes, it’s the perfect introduction into what they’re trying to achieve with the record – less mucking about, and more rocking out. The most successful single from the album Sunsets
, is another that keeps the volume turned up yet has the emotional impact to match. These songs only confirm Powderfinger’s status as a songwriter’s band, as the catchy melodies, simple structures and unpretentious arrangements prove that simplicity doesn’t necessarily negate depth.
Depth which comes in the variety of the songs themselves, rather than the production of them. Since You’ve Been Gone
is a bluesy balled with enough rough edges to cause serious injury, yet works and stirs emotion all the same. On the other end of the spectrum, eerie epic Pockets
floats on for a few minutes before hitting it’s stride and breaking out into monstrous guitar solos and heavy instrumentation. In fact, solos play a larger part too, with guitarists Middleton and Haug both having the chance to reveal the chops they’ve been hiding throughout most of Powderfinger’s history.
It’s not all fleeting moments however, as the album operates on a very consistent line that never drops for a second. Every track is strong, and justifies its place on the record. From the passionate war-ballad How Far Have We Really Come
, to the beautiful closing track A Song Called Everything
– Vulture Street
never gets dull and will always earn repeated listens. If you’re looking for a new rock fix, it’s hard to do better than this fifth studio album from one of Australia’s most respected outfits.