Out & About

You ever score a sweet pair of shoes at a garage sale long after you thought everyone had already scored all the stuff worth scoring? Then you know what it's like to discover Powderfinger and Ours. Both acts are emerging from completely different backgrounds--Powderfinger is Australia's biggest rock band, finally making a gamely stab at cracking the stars and bars; Ours is basically singer/songwriter/Jeff Buckley fan Jimmy Gnecco, a guy from New Jersey who DreamWorks decided to give a stab at cracking middle America--but both have mastered the art of third-generation Big Deep Meaningful Rock Music, the kind always credited to U2 but that has just as much to do with Whitesnake.

Though I admire the group's status Down Under (how the hell do you top Silverchair when no one in your band's a totally hot 16-year-old?) and respect its crackling journeyman-of-rock steez, Powderfinger (dig the Big Deep Meaningful Neil Young Reference) offers fewer thrills than Ours on Odyssey Number Five, its fourth album and first to receive U.S. distribution. The first single, "My Happiness," is as good as it gets, but that's still pretty good: Singer Bernard Fanning (who, to be fair, is a totally hot thirtyish-year-old) does the acoustic-troubadour thing for a sec ("I see your shadow on the street now"), then invites his band to lay down the type of midtempo groove guys like Johnny Rzeznik start out with but always fuck up. And that's exactly the thing: Powderfinger doesn't fuck it up; it just keeps it going for 45 minutes, throwing in a few tricks here and there (after all, Pearl Jam/Patty Smyth enabler Nick DiDia produced) but never straying from the broad strokes and self-serious earnestness that makes this stuff work in spite of itself.