Bernard Fanning is an Australian singer and songwriter who is mostly known for being the front man of Powderfinger, who are one of the most popular Australian bands on our shores over the last twenty years, with huge commercial success and a string of awards to back them up (including winning Album Of The Year at the ARIAs three times). He did, however, dabble in solo work with his folk-music album Tea & Sympathy back in 2005 (and this also won Album Of The Year), and since his old band broke up a few years ago, Fanning has slowly been writing his second solo work.
One thing that struck me immediately with this album was the lack of any singular sound or theme running through it (although there are some running themes with the lyrics). In fact, some people may remember the Powderfinger of the 1990s (think Double Allergic and Internationalist) and the way those albums would jump between genres and styles, long before the band developed their trademark sound – well, this album is very much the same.
The first song, Tell Me How It Ends, comes out swinging with an upbeat rock feel that sounds all too familiar, and while it is a good song I did worry briefly that the whole album was going to be like this. Then the second song starts up, Limbo Stick, with its funky basslines and jazzy instrumentation (especially towards the end of the song), and it becomes very clear that Fanning is moving in a very different direction. The third song, the keys-driven lead single Battleships, consolidates this well:
After this the album seems to jump around between three main styles: the upbeat rockers like the opener, Inside Track and Drake, quirky and sometimes jazzy songs like Here Comes The Sadist, Call You Home, Zero Sum Game, and slower more melancholy tracks like Grow Around You and the hauntingly beautiful Departures (Blue Toowong Skies). On his Youtube channel he explains this song:
“My Dad died at the beginning of 2011 which coincided with the biggest floods Brisbane has seen. This was something that loomed pretty large for me over the whole writing period of ‘Departures’ and I suppose a song like this was bound to come out. The lyric is talking about the place in Brisbane where I grew up, Toowong, a near city suburb that my Dad also spent his childhood in and ended up being buried in, along with my older brother, who I now happen to be older than. “
If you were a fan of Powderfinger, definitely get this album. If you weren’t a fan of Powderfinger, give this a listen anyway – you might be pleasantly surprised. It’s not a life changing album, but it’s a solid return to solo work for Bernard Fanning, and it is great to see him dabble out of his comfort zone.
As I mentioned it earlier, I’ll end this post with the clip for the song Departures (Blue Toowong Skies):