Despite what the naysayers may have you believe, there are still bands out there making truly great, original rock ‘n’ roll. Leadfinger is one of those bands, and with Friday Night Heroes, they have released an album of timeless, durable rock ‘n’ roll that’s a much needed tonic for a current day rock ‘n’ roll landscape that is bloated with revivalism, copyists, tributes and is largely devoid of anything new and interesting. Friday Night Heroes would have sounded great 30 years ago, and will sound great in another 30 years. Yet it’s 2016, and with the aforementioned shortage of first rate rock ‘n’ roll bands – Leadfinger stand out like a beacon in the night, and if this album is anything to go by, they are not only Friday Night Heroes, but the best rock n roll band in Australia.
The twin guitars of Leadfinger & Michael Doyle. The Phoenix, Canberra 20/8/16. photo (c) Cowboy Col
I genuinely hope that Friday Night Heroes falls upon the ears of the masses, for an album this good deserves to be heard. From top to bottom, every tune on Friday Night Heroes is top shelf. Yet before I put the magnifying glass over the album, let me set the scene a little. Stewart ‘Leadfinger’ Cunningham , is a guy who I have seen in various bands since the early 90s. Bands that were revered overseas. He is without a doubt one of the unsung campaigners of Australian rock ‘n’ roll and has, for over 25 years now, created some of the most exciting, original, fire and brimstone rock ‘n’ roll to ever come out of this country. (I will leave it to you to go study up on his musical history). The irony that Sweden’s Hellacopters had an album entitled ‘Payin’ The Dues’ is not lost on me, for Cunningham has more than paid his dues, and when I say he was in a band who in 1995 (Asteroid B-612) who could have been world beaters, and would have smoked the Hellacopters, (and anyone else for that matter), it’s not a statement I make lightly. Rock action, Detroit, Chuck Taylor Hi Tops –desperate blues drenched rock that should have been huge. In Issue 4 of Vicious Kitten Fanzine (published 8/96), I boldly stated that the song ‘Edge A Bit Closer’ (written by Cunningham) was the best rock song to come out of Australia in ten years. Make that 20 years. As history has shown, the Hellacopters took the ball and ran with it a couple of years later – yet I digress.
Stewart ‘Leadfinger’ Cunningham – The Phoenix, Canberra 20/8/16 – photo (c) Cowboy Col
Over the past few years, Leadfinger (the band) have released a bunch of great records, including The Floating Life, Rich Kids, and No Room At The Inn. All terrific records worthy of your attention, yet Friday Night Heroes, for mine, is by far the most complete, consummate album so far. What makes Friday Night Heroes so good is the rich diversity of the songs. Rock action is in Cunningham’s DNA, it’s in his blood, and aptly, the album opens in a big way with the rock swagger of ‘Champagne And Diamonds’. Oodles of melody, killer guitar, catchy chorus, and resplendent female vocal harmonies . This is how Jagger and Ritchards used to write ‘em. The punchy ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ is another highlight, pop sensibilities galore, forthright vocal, tasty sax and piano to boot. ‘Mean Streak’ is sheer guitar pop joy. Cross Westerberg, Ryan Adams and The Jayhawks and you are half the way there. Nifty guitar riff and again, melody galore. This is a superb pop song. The melancholic ‘Bite My Tongue’ is further evidence of Cunningham’s quality song writing. As a lyricist – he draws upon insight, observation, personal experience and reflection to help paint a picture in the listener’s head. Paul Kelly is the obvious example of a songwriter who uses these traits. Cunningham has that capacity too – in spades. ‘Appreciate’ in fact, is a very Paul Kelly-esque tune. A sentimental yet positive ode reminding us to be thankful for every day we have. Stripped back, acoustic, mandolin infused. Ronnie Lane approved. ‘Raining In The Dark’ reminds me a lot of the Jacobites at their peak, with a sparse, jangly, 12 string guitar and repeating, lamenting vocal at the core of the song. Superb. ‘Older and Wiser’ is the albums plumb for mine. What a song. It opens with a nod to ‘Sweet Jane’ and musically walks a line that is very much classic Ian Hunter. Always scores maximum points with me. Short, sharp, melodic and sing-along chorus. What more do you need? The guitar interplay between Michael Boyle and Leadfinger on this, and in fact every tune is tight and effective.
Friday Night Heroes is the must have album of 2016. If you only buy one album this year – make it this one. 10 out of 10. Friday Night Heroes is out now on Brisbane label Conquest Of Noise Records, or through Leadfinger.com.au