A hotel constructed on reliable foundations
POWDERFINGER’S Bernard Fanning found a new voice in 2005 on his solo album Tea & Sympathy . It allowed him to experiment vocally in an acoustic, rootsy environment. With Powderfinger’s first studio album in almost four years, Fanning could have simply slipped into his old ways, adding that mid- range angsty, emotive polish to the band’s well- honed rock formula. Yet on the single Lost and Running he sounds like an out of sorts David Bowie, with a baritone that sits at least an octave below his normal metier. Only when the chorus kicks in does the penny drop. One can admire Powderfinger for choosing to reignite their career in such an innovative way, but the other 10 songs here are just as impressive, although none is quite so stylistically risque. If 2003’ s Vulture Street allowed the band to indulge its heavier rock inclinations, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence ( the title is taken from Paul Auster’s book, The Brooklyn Follies ) is a return to the more accessible pop- rock of its predecessor, Odyssey Number Five ( 2000). Recorded in Los Angeles with American producer Rob Schnapf, the album plays to the band’s strengths. Ian Haug and Darren Middleton’s guitars mingle, weave, jangle and distort equally. Rhythm section Jon Coghill and John Collins inform the songs’ melodic structures as well as being the foundation for them, while Fanning is flawlessly soulful ( Black Tears , Wishing on the Same Moon) and informs the rockiest moments ( Head Up in the Clouds , I Don’t Remember , Who Really Cares ) with just the right amount of restraint. Fanning said recently that he worried about Powderfinger being appropriate in 2007. With Hotel Existence he and his colleagues have proved they remain much more than that.