New Powderfinger album amid reunion rumours
OK, lads, 10 years' long service leave is enough - time to go get the band back together."
The comment, posted by a fan under the video of Powderfinger's One Night Lonely virtual
reunion concert, got plenty of "hear, hear" responses.
That wishful thinking had already spun into rumours.
Promoter Michael Gudinski cheekily declared the beloved rockers were top of his wishlist for the AFL Grand Final, to be held in Queensland. That bit of thinking out loud generated such buzz, the band had to issue a statement ruling it out.
More hopes were raised by the fleeting furphy that should the Falls Festival - due to start at the end of December - go ahead with an all-Australian line-up, maybe the Finger would headline.
Industry insiders further indulged in goss Powderfinger was tentatively planning to tour in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their seminal Odyssey Number Five record, but not until 2021.
But all of the conjecture failed to acknowledge or accept that a band who hadn't played for a decade, and were separated by COVID-19 border restrictions, simply couldn't get back together without weeks of rehearsals.
One Night Lonely, after all, was filmed live, with each member playing in their own space, and then brilliantly edited together as a concert performance.
What the more than 850,000 views of that May gig did do was confirm Powderfinger's plan to release a new record.
"I guess if we'd done One Night Lonely and 50 people had tuned in, we possibly would have rethought this idea of putting something out," says guitarist Darren Middleton.
That record is the unimaginatively titled Unreleased, comprising 10 songs plucked from the Powderfinger vault.
They were unearthed as Middleton, Bernard Fanning, Ian Haug, John Collins and Jon Coghill were trawling for bonus material for the Odyssey Number Five anniversary reissue, which leapt back to No. 2 on the ARIA charts on its release in September.
When the band members gathered in March 2019 at La Cueva Recording, the Byron Bay studio Fanning set up with respected American producer Nick DiDia, to assess their treasure trove, these tracks were deemed too good to just slap on an anniversary album.
DiDia's studio wizardry has helped fashion these misfit songs, which never made it on to albums, into a Powderfinger record which holds its own against any of the seven studio albums they released between 1994 and 2009, before calling time.
"I actually think it's right up there; it's as good as any of those albums from that middle period that became really popular," lead singer Fanning says.
Unreleased throws up some surprises. The most jawdropping is the record's penultimate
song, Happy, a decidedly unPowderfinger song. The upbeat romp with handclaps and "hey, hey, hers" is a throwback to the Easybeats garage pop sound.
"JC really did not want that song on there - he was dead against it - but anyone who has heard the record has said it was their favourite song," Fanning says.
"I actually love the song and it's got probably the best guitar solo Darren ever did. It was written right at the end of the band, after Golden Rule, I think."
That's the other surprise Unreleased throws up. Back in the '90s and through the noughties, as rock began to slip out of favour on the pop charts and airwaves, overblown guitar and drum solos were relegated to the live stage. You did not put them on a recording.
You can imagine the 50-something men of Powderfinger laughing as they heard the solos on Happy and What Are You Waiting For, and then looking at each other and saying "why not".
"That stuff is fun," Middleton says. "It's like the thing I did in the One Night Lonely video where I did the guitar solo and turned the fan on - I hoped that moment would be funny and it was. That shit's not dead, it just needs to be done more often."
The album's final track is called Wrecking Ball. There have been more Wrecking Ball songs than the Miley Cyrus hit, yet you can't help wonder if they thought of changing the name.
"If we ever did a film clip for that song, Bernard nude on the wrecking ball is involved, absolutely," Middleton says. "We would be paying homage to it."
Fanning's response when we chat the following week is good-humoured disgust at the suggestion.
"That is wrong: Darren imagining me semi-naked," he laughs.
"That's what he's like, the little weirdo. And we wrote that song long before Miley Cyrus put hers out."
As Fanning said before the One Night Lonely concert, time apart to follow their own paths has made coming back together to plan this year's activity a positive experience.
But positive enough to get back on the road? Both Fanning and Middleton insist there are no plans.
"We are not. Why would we do it?" Fanning says.
Middleton backs up the frontman but leaves the door open, just a crack.
"There is no tour planned, you know that!" he says.
"I will say that people's feelings about this have changed over time. I can tell you at least I haven't been invited."
Unreleased is out now
Originally published as New Powderfinger album amid reunion rumours