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Parables for Wooden Ears

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Parables for Wooden Ears
Studio album by Powderfinger
Released 18 July 1994 (Australia)
Recorded Metropolis Studios, Melbourne
February 1994
Genre Alternative rock, hard rock
Length 49:54
Label Polydor Records
Producer Tony Cohen
Powderfinger chronology
Parables for Wooden Ears
Mr Kneebone
Singles from Parables for Wooden Ears
  1. "Tail"
    Released: 14 June 1994
  2. "Grave Concern"
    Released: 22 August 1994
  3. "Save Your Skin"
    Released: 22 July 1995

Parables for Wooden Ears was the first studio album released by the Australian band Powderfinger. It was released on 18 July 1994 by Polydor Records, after recording at the Metropolis Studios in Melbourne during February 1994.

The album was received poorly and failed to chart or improve Powderfinger's platform despite the respectable success of its predecessor, Transfusion. Critics complained about its poor imitation of Americana and grunge, as well as its overuse of complex riffs. In a 2004 interview, Powderfinger lead singer Bernard Fanning said, in reference to the album, "God knows what we were on then." Three singles were released from the album, all of which failed to chart.


In a 1996 interview, Fanning described Parables for Wooden Ears as "big and presumptuous",[1] and stated that it had "a pretty massive sort of sound".[1] He said that the band somewhat regretted this, and did not intend to do so again on future releases.[1]

On Parables for Wooden Ears, Powderfinger worked with the producer Tony Cohen, whom Fanning described as having a huge reputation, and thus being expensive to work with.[1] However, becaude of the "lack of an obvious single", the album sold poorly, despite the effort put into production.[2] Parables for Wooden Ears contained references by Powderfinger to Aboriginal rights, with a song written by the drummer Jon Coghill discussing the idea that the band's generation was the first to reach out to the concept of reconciliation.[2]

In 1998, the guitarist Ian Haug described Internationalist as a moderation between the band's last two albums, calling Parables for Wooden Ears a "complicated beast".[3] In a 1999 interview, Fanning said that the band "were sorting out our sound" on the album, and that despite it not working well they still thought it was "a good record".[4] Juice commentator Simon Wooldridge noted in 2000 that Parables for Wooden Ears contained "million"s of riffs, and thus the band were not able to produce a simple sound on the album.[5]

In a November 2004 interview with the Melbourne newspaper, The Age, Fanning recalled that the head of Polydor Records had described the album as "awful" and remarked that "God knows what we were on then". He also said that in making Parables for Wooden Ears, Powderfinger "went through this weird stage of trying to be something [they] weren't."[6] Fanning also told Australian Musician that the album, a "spectacular failure", was a result of the band feeling "forced" to play like other bands that were popular in Brisbane at the time.[7]

Release and response[edit]

Parables for Wooden Ears was released on 18 July 1994 on the Polydor Records label.[8] Three singles were released from Parables for Wooden Ears: "Tail", released on 14 June 1994,[9] "Grave Concern", released on 22 August 1994,[10] and "Save Your Skin", released on 22 July 1995.[11] Due to the minimal promotion and reputation of the band, the album and singles failed to chart.

Critics generally agreed with Powderfinger's assessment of the album, with some describing it as "a thundering rock album" and noting the similarity to Americana. Fanning also noted that the album had a lot less "balance" than the album that followed it, Double Allergic.[12] Other critics noted that Parables for Wooden Ears had a "dark, overly complex metal sound" and complained of the album's "distorted guitars", but put this down to the album being a learning experience for the band.[13]

Parables for Wooden Ears received a moderate response from reviewers. Juice reviewer John Encarnacao enjoyed the rock elements of the album, drawing comparisons to Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. He thanked producer Tony Cohen for the "big sound" of the album, and said that the musicians on the album "not only know about power and restraint, but also play tastefully".[14] Encarnacao stated that Fanning "lays the emotion on thick and usually more than gets away with it."[14] The review was summarised by stating that the album may have been "a bit like the retro-rock that the big corporations want you to buy", but that nonetheless it was a good album.[14]

Jackson G. Marx was similarly conflicted in Australian Rolling Stone, writing, "They create painstaking technical 'works' of art. This is not necessarily a compliment. Sometimes it's a certified jerk-off." Despite describing some songs as, "tragically clever," and, "grooveless monstrosities," he scored the album three stars from five, and wrote of the pleasure of repeated listens. "'Tail', for example, is tangled and inert and teeters precariously on the brink of disappearing up its own arsehole, but a determined listener will find its hooks more infecting with each spin." [15]

Sputnikmusic contributor James Bishop gave the album a score of 2.5 (average), summarising his review with the statement "Get Double Allergic instead."[16] Bishop stated that the album contained too much imitation, and that the album is "pretty much forgotten by even the most hardcoriest of music fans" because of the poor imitation in it - described as "a simple case of "monkey see, monkey not do very well"."[16] Bishop praised some aspects of the album, stating that "Hurried Bloom" contained "a raw song-writing ability" and that "Sink Low" was "a hidden gem".[16] However, he said that the majority of songs contained Powderfinger trying too hard with their riffs, noting "Bridle You" and "Father's Pyramid" as specific examples. Bishop also criticised the lyrics in most songs, stating that "Walking Stick" contained "some horrendously bad lyrics".[16] The highlight of the album for Bishop was "Save Your Skin", which he called "a gorgeous addition to their collection", despite calling the overall album "a pretty dark and depressing experience".[16]

Track listing[edit]

All music written by Bernard Fanning, John Collins, Ian Haug, Darren Middleton, Jon Coghill. Lyrics by Fanning unless otherwise noted.[17]

  1. "Walking Stick" – 4:06
  2. "Tail" – 5:27
  3. "Hurried Bloom" – 3:34
  4. "Fathers' Pyramid" – 4:38 (Fanning, Coghill)
  5. "Bridle You" – 3:56
  6. "Citadel" – 3:23
  7. "Sink Low" – 2:12
  8. "Grave Concern" – 4:46
  9. "Solution" – 3:50
  10. "This Syrup to Exchange" – 4:31 (Fanning, Coghill)
  11. "Namaste" – 2:21
  12. "Blanket" – 3:39
  13. "Save Your Skin" – 3:36


  1. ^ a b c d Peter Blythe (29 October 1996). "I Is Not Me". Drum Media. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 24 December 2007. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b Simon Wooldridge (March 1997). "Out Of The Blue". Juice. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  3. ^ Benedict Watts (November 1998). "The Beckoning Finger". Juice. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Allergic Internationalists". hEARd Online Music Magazine. Powderfinger Central. 1999. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  5. ^ Simon Wooldridge (September 2000). "This Sporting Life". Juice. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  6. ^ Craig Mathieson (5 November 2004). "Finger's finest". The Age. Retrieved 25 December 2007. 
  7. ^ Dino Scatena (2004). "Ten Years in the Spotlight". Australian Musician. Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2008. 
  8. ^ "Parables For Wooden Ears". Dozmusic-central. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Tail". Discography. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Grave Concern". Discography. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Save Your Skin". Discography. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  12. ^ Tracey Grimson (January 1997). "Powderfinger - Break the Barrier". Rolling Stone. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  13. ^ Noel Mengel (16 November 1999). "Budding Internationalists". The Courier Mail. Powderfinger Central. Retrieved 25 December 2007. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b c "Parables for Wooden Ears review". Juice. Hindley Site. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2007. 
  15. ^ Jackson G. Marx. "Recordings". Australian Rolling Stone. Sydney, NSW: Tilmond Pty Ltd (August 1994): pg90. 
  16. ^ a b c d e James Bishop (12 April 2006). "Powderfinger - Parables for Wooden Ears". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 24 December 2007. 
  17. ^ "Parables for Wooden Ears > Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 December 2007.