Golden Rule

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After disappointing some fans with their previous album, Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (2007), Powderfinger teamed up once again with producer Nick DiDia for Golden Rule, one of the band's best full-lengths to date. One of the most reliable rock bands in the business, Powderfinger experienced nothing but success in their homeland after their first album was a flop. Their second, Double Allergic (1996), broke them into the Top Five of the Australian albums chart, and each successive full-length release reached number one. Internationalist (1998), the first of Powderfinger's chart-toppers, marked their initial collaboration with DiDia, best known for engineering Brendan O'Brien-produced albums by Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and several other radio-friendly rock bands of the 1990s. Following the success of Internationalist, Powderfinger collaborated with DiDia again on Odyssey Number Five (2000) and Vulture Street (2003), both of which were similarly well received. Dream Days at the Hotel Existence, recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rob Schnapf after a three-year hiatus, was a change of course for the band that left some fans unimpressed. Those same fans should give Golden Rule a listen. It's something of a return to form for the band. Recorded in Byron Bay, New South Wales, it finds Powderfinger in their comfort zone. While it's not a rehash of any album in particular, Golden Rule is often reminiscent of the band's past work with DiDia, at times harking back to Odyssey Number Five, at other times harking back to Vulture Street. This is part of what makes Powderfinger so reliable: their production style is synonymous with DiDia, their songwriting is formulaic yet still inventive, and they tend to come up with signature-sounding melodies and riffs. They also have a knack for penning sure-fire hits, and Golden Rule kicks off with a pair of them: "All of the Dreamers" and "Burn Your Name." In fact, the entire first half of the album is excellent, including the additional highlights "A Fight About Money," "Sail the Wildest Stretch," "Poison in Your Mind," and "Iberian Dream." In some ways, Golden Rule is Powderfinger's best album to date. The song selection is diverse and finely balanced, and the band has never sounded more comfortable and self-assured. All that's lacking on Golden Rule is an element of surprise. Anyone familiar with the band's past work with DiDia knows more or less what to expect here.

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