Powderfinger - The White Album. This would have been an appropriate title for this sterling effort from the Aussie darlings of pop-rock. You see, much like The Beatles classic, it's considered by many to be their most essential purchase. It takes all of their traits, and throws them together in a colourful blend of musical goodness. The heart wrenching ballads, the ballsy rock anthems, and the downright bizarre. There's no other way to describe the exact genre of this album, other than to say it's a roller-coaster ride from start to finish.
At this stage in their career, the 'finger had already released their critically acclaimed sophomore album Double Allergic, and the masses were demanding another killer record. Boy, did they deliver...
Throwing away the darker sound that permeated throughout their previous work, the guys jumped in a van and headed off to a beach house to write the crux of the album. This is evident in the playful nature of many of the songs, a sure sign that they'd ditched the alternative sound and headed off into more pop-rock territory (note; this was during the post-grunge backlash of the mid nineties, which saw many grunge acts changing their sounds).
The album starts with the humblest of beginnings, a randomly placed drum beat kicking off what is probably the only happy song in the 'finger's melancholy riddled repertoire - Hindley Street
. A simple song if ever there was one with an even simpler chorus.
. The fun-filled guitar solo and "all in" outro captures the idea of the album superbly - sit back and enjoy 45 minutes of pure entertainment courtesy of Powderfinger inc.
The fun loving sections of the album go a long way to rocking you're socks off. Don't Wanna Be Left Out
is a crazy, 2 minute odd track that, when paired with maniacal Good Day Ray
, demands to be turned up and danced to. The two tracks were released to the public as a double A side. Needless to say, the nation (who were used to more subtle efforts from the band) didn't get it. Shame. Horn accompanied Celebrity Head
kicks on with the same kind of aggression, and is also a winner.
This record's not all up-tempo though. Single Already Gone
is, as the band says - "us loving the Beatles". This influence is obvious. The innocent, melodic verse turns quickly into an anthem-like chorus full of despair and dejection. Yet, it's still fun! The radio loved this song, and it still gets airplay today, along with other classics. Belter
is also an ode to the kings of pop-rock (Helter Skelter, anyone"). Probably the most aggressive thing on here, with a real "crunchy" sound, as the band have described.
It should be clear to you now, that the band is intent on taking us from one extreme to the other. If it isn't clear, let's introduce ballad Passenger
. Amazing. Beautifil. The effing shiznit. I've run out of adjectives. This is one of their most successful singles, and there's a simple reason for this. It's so damn good. Heart-wrenching lyrics (which Bernard is known for) mixed with a truly uplifting chorus make this one of the greats. Do yourself a favour and download this now
. Stop reading this review and hunt it down. You'll be hooked. Another ballad that pulls the heart strings is the gorgeous Trading Places
. Although it's soft and lovely, it's still unlike anything they've ever done. Bernard's brilliant voice stands out over the top of some stunning instrumentation. The introduction of the cellos, as the song unassumingly fades away is simply moving. What a winner.
Politics is something the 'finger have always dabbled in, without letting it take over their albums like other bands who should just shut their mouths every now and then. Single Day You Come
is this record's obligatory stab at the Howard government, as it was written when little Johnnie first came into power all those years ago. Enough of that though, what's the song
like" Well, without sounding too enthusiastic, it's a ripper and one of the coolest songs you'll ever hear.
Memories are fading, single voice complaining
Days are stacking up
It's hardly worth debating, the people are frustrated
Drink from poisoned cup
The system is collapsing, conscious is relapsing
The damage has been done...
Another track that the public fell in love with, it still gets around on the wireless. Album epic Capoicity
is another politically centred track, which begins somewhat slowly, but like all good classics, builds up to a fantastic finale that can only be described as uplifting. Album highlight, actually.
Album closer Lemon Sunrise
is the most bizarre thing they've ever done, along with tracks like Boing Boing
and Come Away
on the previous album. Incredibly laid back and care-free, it's the only song on the album that actually gives a true indication that it was written in a beach house. All in all, it's just the 'finger exercising a sense of humour, which so many bands don't do these days!
One of the reasons Powderfinger have survived in the cut-throat music industry is that they have continued to evolve sonically instead of releasing stale efforts that all sound the same. Internationalist is the album that screams this idea. They're letting go to an extent and just making great music, irrespective of making sales or taking themselves too seriously. Many consider this to be the essential Powderfinger record, and with so much colour and variety crammed into a neat little package, they've got a good case. A beautiful, incomparable and truly surprising album.