Skillfully done

It wasn’t until the third or fourth listening did I realize it — I just bought an album of the kind of guitar rock that I usually hate.

And that’s a pretty strong testament to the songwriting abilities of Powderfinger.

Odyssey Number Five, the band’s fourth album and its first to reach the States, collects eleven easily infectuous tunes that rock out one moment, then quietly seduce the next.

Odyssey Number Five has already gone platinum five times in Australia and for good reason.

Powderfinger is a master of the majestic chorus. Almost every track on Odyssey Number Five showcases singer Bernard Fanning delivering a soaring vocal at the song’s crux. It helps that Fanning isn’t an Eddie Vedder clone — his got the pipes to pull it off.

On the album’s slower tracks, the band opts to let strings and ethereal effects fill in where guitars usually do. The usual adjective to describe this technique is “lush,” but Powderfinger manages to keep the extras from taking over.

On “These Days,” an organ gives way to the chiming guitars of Fanning and Dave Middleton at just the right moments. A bit predictable but still skillfully down.

“The Metre” starts off with bits of string here and a marimba there, but then it all comes together at the chorus in a restrained but grandiose chorus.

While Powderfinger does a great job bringing out nuances and subtleties on their slower tracks, the band’s rock-ier songs are more straight-forward.

“Waiting for the Sun” and “We Should Be Together Now” shows the quintet standing on their own. “Thrillioligy” indulges in layers of effects pedals, but it’s still a rock song through and through.

The songwriting on Odyssey Number Five is so accomplished, it takes a while before some of its more generic qualities surface. “Up & Down & Back Again” reeks of R.E.M.’s “Finest Worksong” after the fourth or fifth spin. Even weirder: it’s nothing a pickier listen might mind.

Powderfinger’s success is definitely well deserved in its home country, and perhaps some of that will translate to success in the States.