Through The Cracks - Leadfinger (Music Farmers)
Dunno if it's a spring clearance of some spare recordings or a pause before the next long-player, but this eight-song EP from Wollongong trio Leadfinger hits the spot. My only hope is the title isn't prophetic - and of course you can make sure it isn't. More on that after I tell you why it works.
In a word: songs. A few of these belong to bandleader Stew "Leadfinger" Cunningham and the balance to other people. Some if not most should be familiar but they all work to a degree. Good players being on board helps. The Leadfinger engine room of bassist Wayne Stokes and drummer Steve O'Brien unobtrusively but effectively do their work. If it sounds rustic, the recording was laid down in a farmhouse on the New South Wales South Coast and then finished in Stew's home studio. Uncluttered and not embellished.
Cunningham's chops are the prime attraction and he's in a bluesy frame of mind with slide guitar replacing the frantic attack of Brother Brick, Asteroid B612 and the Proton Energy Pills.
"That Rock 'n' Roll Sound" is a sterling opener, a stand-out from Challenger 7's one and only album of ragged, Replacements-style powerpop. The lyrics could be about you or me and they still ring true, a decade or so after they were originally recorded (with Cunningham a member.) Leadfinger do the Someloves' sublime "Melt" justice, and form there we're into more contemporary territory.
"A Beautiful Sound" is fruit from this band's tree (a Cunningham-O'Brien co-write) that bodes well for the future album; "Edge of Suburbia (Urban Dub)" is an update of a song from the bandleader's own sparse "The Floating Life" where the current band played more of a supporting role.
I was going to consign "Hip Shake" to the ranks of the redundant cover song (even the Stones didn't manage to make it stick on "Exile", arguably their greatest album) but the band imbues it with a hypnotic feel that works also because it's wedged hard up against an outright rocker ("Making Up For Lost Time".) Karl Webber (The Pink Fits) contribnutes some mean Jew's harp. "See You Tonight" has been done a couple of times before and suffers for the absence of Bill Gibson's backing vocal this time out but it's nonetheless a keeper.
The odd pup in the litter is the closer, "Bicycle Man", another reprised song from "The Floating Life" . Flugelhorn and trumpet mix it with a touch of tonal variation to cook up something quite surreal.
So where did aI come in? Oh yeah. Leadfinger are still living on the fringes. Where they like it.