Few bands defined Australian rock ’n’ roll in the late ’90s and early 2000s as potently as Brisbane five-piece Powderfinger. It wasn’t, however, always that way. Forming in 1989, and borrowing their name from the 1979 Neil Young song, Powderfinger solidified their classic line-up around 1992, when guitarist Darren Middleton joined singer Bernard Fanning, guitarist Ian Haug (who had been on vocal duties before Fanning’s appointment), bassist John “JC” Collins and drummer Jon Coghill.
1994’s grunge-indebted debut album Parables for Wooden Ears earned the band a cult following, but they’d have to wait until 1996’s Double Allergic—on which they streamlined their sound into a more radio-friendly concoction of classic rock riffing and the emotive vocals of frontman Fanning—for real mainstream success. Slow-building single “Pick You Up” kick-started a six-album, 13-year run of hit songs, peaking with 2000’s Odyssey Number Five, on which the band added widescreen acoustic flourishes to the likes of “My Happiness” and “These Days.”
With their elevated profile, Fanning took the opportunity to shine a spotlight on bigger issues—“The Day You Come” from 1998’s Internationalist, the group’s first overtly political track, alluded to the rise of nationalism and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party in Australia. He didn’t, however, completely abandon his knack for distilling relatable everyday emotion into song—2003’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” (inspired by the 2002 passing of Fanning’s brother) and 2009’s “Burn Your Name”, when married with the band’s knockabout image, contributed to their widespread appeal.
Powderfinger bid farewell with an extensive 2010 Australian tour, in which they performed to over 300,000 fans, but their legacy was such that an album of unreleased tracks issued 10 years later—2020’s Unreleased (1998 - 2010)—debuted at No. 2 in the Australian charts.
ORIGINBrisbane, Queensland, Australia