From Heavy Metal to Centenary Medal
. This was the alternate title for Powderfinger's recent 'Best of' - Fingerprints
. The "heavy metal" pretty much refers to this debut effort from the Aussie five-some, who are known for wearing their influences on their sleeves. At this point (1993-94), the world was going crazy over a style of music called "grunge". I think you might remember it. Soundgarden? That sort of thing.
Anyway, imitation is not only a great form of flattery, but also a great way to make it big in the music industry. Or, so the boys from Brizzy thought. You see, this album (which barely made a dent in the charts when first released) is pretty much forgotten by even the most hardcoriest of music fans. Why? Well - for one - the execution is as rough as guts. At this point, Powderfinger had the raw talent, but not the experience to turn it into a great record. The numerous amounts of bizarre time signatures, cliche lyrics and general pretentiousness (something which the band now acknowledges openly themselves) is a simple case of "monkey see, monkey not do very well".
However, when they get it right, they show glimpses of what they were eventually going to become. Take moody track Hurried Bloom
for instance. It's by no means the best track on the album, but it does contain eerie melodies and a raw song-writing ability that someone in their management thankfully recognised. Acoustic wonder Sink Low
is another example of this - a hidden gem that proved they could make musical gold if they just focused their attentions on making shorter, catchier tunes rather than wanking about with pointless riffery.
Pointless riffery? Well, the album seems to be rife with it. Rocking track Bridle You
is a case of a potentially great song ruined by pretentious pomposity and generally mucking around with the dynamics of conventional song-writing. As a result, this rather adequate song will only ever be just that
. Epic track Father's Pyramid
is another example of this. It's got the right amount of momentum and 'slow build-up' that all good epics have, yet is let down by a confusing time signature.
Their ability in writing ballads (something which they're now worshipped for), was also deeply under-developed. This Syrup to Exchange
is a dank and swampy track that just doesn't work. Bernard's recognisable voice had also yet to mature, and the pathos in his vocalising seemed very forced.
But where's this "heavy metal" stuff? Well, debut single Tail
is as hard as nails, and is a great example of how bad production and self-indulgent liberties just can't keep a great song down. It might not grab you at first (although it will blow your head off), but this track actually contains some of the pop-sensibilities they later developed and used to create great tracks like d.a.f
and Turtle's Head
(just to name a couple). Again, the lyrics are tired and cheesy, but it really is quite a great song. Second single Grave Concern
, is very similar also - another hard rock/grunge track that displayed trademarks of popular music (melodies, catchy chorus). One of the best songs on the album.
Heaviest track Solution
is Powderfinger off a leash. The banging drums, the incredibly large guitar-work. Bernard's lyrics also don't let the team down.
"If you were my only problem
Then I couldn't confuse you
with the solution"
Ouch. Just listen to it and try not to bang your head. Album opener Walking Stick
is a dirty ol' track doing it's best to shine above some horrendously bad
"Dogs and children lift their legs
to tattoo a teenage mother's breast
Widows of precocious days
wear slogans resurrected late
Parables for wooden ears
steer vehicles of wisdom..."
And it goes on like this. Musically though, it's quite a mature track and another one that flourishes with patience.
They saved the best for last though, and album highlight is definitely closer Save Your Skin
. A solely acoustic track (with added strings), it's a gorgeous addition to their collection and a beautiful ending to what is a pretty dark and depressing experience. If only the whole album could be this well written and inspiring.
Unfortunately, it isn't. In the end, they only let themselves down by persisting with showy execution and a general distaste for anything conventional. It does grow considerably if you give it the benefit of the doubt, but only the most die-hard of 'finger fanatics would want to hang around long enough for that to happen. If you see it in the bargain bin for cheap, by all means have a crack. Who knows, you may fall in love with it. As it stands though, it's one for the fans.
Get Double Allergic instead.