A ho­tel con­structed on re­li­able foun­da­tions

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music - Iain Shed­den

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.

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