By the time this record is released in the U.S., it will have already gone Platinum five times … in Australia. So what do these wonders from Down Under possess that American audiences haven”t caught onto yet? Powderfinger”s distinctive guitar- and snare-driven sound picks up where alt-artists like The Smiths and Radiohead leave off, adding their own blend of Aussie rock to emotive vocals and experimentation. American audiences still may have trouble digesting Odyssey”s lack of catchy hooks and pop-based choruses, but the patient listener will be rewarded with one of the best releases of the year.

Paul Wong
The Three Cousins (Megan Besley, Alissa Mercurio and Kimberley Dolanski) get pornographic in “La Perichole.”<br><br>Courtesy of University Productions

Hailing from sub-tropical Brisbane, a growing surfer spot on the east coast of Australia, Powderfinger”s music often imitates its origin. Juxtaposed between the humidity of the north and the sublime Australian coastline, their rich harmonies meet receding and advancing guitars through a cerebral arrangement of lyrics, never limiting themselves to traditional musical measures. Many tracks begin with a slow, strumming six-string, but climax in layered and distorted choruses that would even make Billy Corgan proud.

Powderfinger plays into conflicting themes as the largely instrumental, two-minute title track that warily greets the listener: “Welcome to the new suburban fables/Dressed up like a tomb inside a cradle,” while songs like “The Metre” promise a brighter path with “There”s a sunset on the road/Reappearing as we go.” First time listeners may recognize the troubled “My Kinda Scene” from the Mission Impossible II soundtrack, but it”s definitely worth another listen.

Although each song is separate and unique, Odyssey has a certain concept album sound to it, ala Roger Waters. But the CD is definitely lyrically driven: singer/songwriter Bernard Fanning successfully combines simple poetry with passionate tales of his life. If Odyssey is successful in America, expect re-issues of early Powderfinger albums to follow.

Grade: A-

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