EPILOGUE - The Finkers (Off the Hip)
Looking back on the mess that was music in the '90s, there really were some over-performers who got lost in the mire of grunge, synth tripe and hair metal. Guitar pop was in full retreat but some of the brave souls who hung around to fight a last ditch battle - even though most of them were up unable to be arrested in their home countries. Exhibit A for the defence: Australia's Finkers.

Really a vehicle for the song-writing of well-travelled then-Sydney veteran drummer Mickster Baty (Pyramidiacs, The Slaters, The Crusaders) whose contemporary label issued this double CD package, The Finkers weaved a pattern of Melodies with a capital 'M' through strong tunes complemented by great players. Pop producer extraordinaire Michael Carpenter (vocals and bass), my former local record store manager Matt Allison (guitar) and Canberra emigrant Mick O' Regan (guitar and organ) played host to a revolving cast of guests.

The band's output boiled down to two proper albums ("Fresh Set o Prints" and "Double Back and Go"), the "Stance" EP and some tribute/compilation tracks, many of which ended up on a Finkers compile, "Whole Lotta Fun". This, however, is the definitive retrospective. Mickster's done a Hoodoo Gurus a la "Electric Chair/Lounge Chair" and split the back catalogue into pop (disc one) and pop-rock (disc two). I haven't done the count and I'm too lazy to ask but I'm pretty sure these are the complete recorded works.

Not unexpectedly, I am drawn towards Disc Two with its propensity for neck-breakers (the fab "Stacy Cut The Crap", "All Revved Up", an organ-oriented cover of Birdman's "I-94") with only the occasional interlude ("Rejection", "Gurl From Bicheno"), but the infectious pop of the companion platter has an allure of its own. The Plimsouls meet the Beach Boys on "Adeline Now" and that's probably the core of what you need to remember. There's plenty more in that vein, lending support.

The songs might have been primarily Mickster's but there are significant co-writing contributions from Carpenter and Allison in particular. Covers of The Real Kids ("Outta Place"), The Stems ("Love Will Grow") and the Groovies ("You Tore Me Down") do justice to the originals while straying far enough to do more than imitate.

If there was one criticism of The Finkers back in the day it was that they dabbled in so many styles (and succeeded in most, admittedly.) From classic melodic pop to smiling garage fuzz to Gene Clark country ballads, they nailed 'em.

Born out of time, yes, but there's no better time than now to catch up on The Finkers and their past doings. - The Barman

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STANCE - The Finkers (Popboomerang)
The Finkers have been surfacing, occasionally, in their home country (Australia) to not much reaction, yet draw the punters like flies to an outdoor dunny in places like Spain. It's almost become a standing joke that the Finkers, the Pyramidiacs, the Early Hours and Challenger 7 can't (or couldn't) get arrested in their own towns, yet pack venues or sell boxloads of records in foreign climes. Go figure, 'cos lack of local success has nothing to do with the quality of their output.

God knows why there's no Finkers disc reviews on the Bar already, so let's put that right. The Finkers are: Oz powerpop's Everywhere man Michael Carpenter, guitarists Matt Allison and Mick O'Regan and Mickster "Off the Hip" Baty on drums. This CD-EP is their latest effort - this time on small but burgeoning Melbourne label Popboomerang.

Now Popboomerang's probably more pop than powerpop, but this six-tracker covers all the bases (or the ones that count - pop, powerpop and garage). "Cryin' Out" is a mid-tempo guitar pop effort, "Night Time Fun" a flat-out stomp around the garage. "Lights for Angela" is a sentimental homesickness pop song for Mrs Allison that would have sat well on "Double Up and Go", the band's last full album release.

Speaking thereof, "Stance" lacks the (mostly) over-polished veneer of "Double Up...", which is a good thing. The deft production hand of Michael Carpenter keeps it sounding nice and live. It's not clear where it was put to tape, but at least one track, the bright opener "Drugs and Jesus" (a tribute to Big Star's Chris Bell (who got both), was recorded at Nagel's Grandmothers' Sofas Studio in Hamburg on the band's truncated Euro tour in 2001. (Local lad Rudi Raschberger, whose output is worth tracking down, guests on guitar).

If you've ever wondered what the Scruffs from Memphis sounded like (as opposed to the Scruffs from Sydney, who changed their name to the Wake Ups before apparently putting themselves to sleep), wonder no more. The Finkers cover one of their songs, "Break the Ice". And if you've ever wondered what the Finkers sound like, this is a bargain-priced chanced to find out, pretty well risk-free.

Take my word for it that this is primo garage with liberal lashings of pop. If that sounds appealing, don;t take my word for it. You can order direct from the label if your local Ma and Pa music shop doesn't stock it. Mine does - but it's an especially cool one AND Matt Allison happens to manage it (probably not a coincidence). - The Barman


 


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